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Summer 2002

High energy marks high-performance
modeling and computing workshop

by Zhenya Gallon

With a new supercomputer breaking speed records in its warm-up phase and the promise of other new hardware on the horizon, the energy was upbeat at the Fourth International Workshop on Next Generation Climate Models for Advanced High Performance Computing Facilities. Climate modelers and software experts from Europe, Japan, and the United States gathered at NCAR’s Mesa Lab from 12 to 14 March to discuss model development in light of computer architectures of today and tomorrow.
Completed in 2000, the central building of the Earth Simulator in Yokahama holds the project’s enormous hardware. Chilling equipment resides in an adjacent building, and other nearby structures accommodate researchers. (Photos courtesy Earth Simulator.)

"High anticipation was the mood, because Japan’s Earth Simulator [supercomputer] was just about ready to go online," recalls Maurice Blackmon, director of NCAR’s Climate and Global Dynamics Division and one of four conveners for the workshop. The vector-based Earth Simulator was a major—though not the only—focus of participants, who also traded ideas on the challenges of obtaining higher resolution from global and mesoscale models on both parallel and vector platforms.

As increased computing power puts the dream of a 10-kilometer grid for global models within reach, the reality of "the parameterization issue" remains to be addressed. When you increase the resolution to that extent, "it changes every parameter," co-convener Sumi Akimasa (Center for Climate System Research, University of Tokyo) told the opening session. Blackmon added, "All processes have scale dependence; every physical process should be re-examined. That’s one reason why an international collaborative program is so important."

A key purpose of the workshop was to build collaborations between modelers and computer scientists at the international level. Also on hand were supercomputer vendors Cray, Fujitsu, Hitachi, IBM, and NEC, whose representatives outlined future product plans. The other co-conveners of the U.S. workshop were Jean-Claude André (CERFACS, the European Centre for Research and Advanced Training in Scientific Computation) and Sugi Masato (Japan Meteorological Research Institute). The sessions at NCAR were organized by Japan’s Research Organization for Information Science and Technology.

Previous workshops were hosted by the International Pacific Research Center at the University of Hawaii (Honolulu), Météo-France (Toulouse), and the Center for Climate System Research at the University of Tokyo. Following the pattern of rotating continents, the fifth workshop is planned for March 2003 in Europe.

All fired up and ready to go

The Earth Simulator, large enough to cover four tennis courts, has 640 nodes with 8 vector processors per node. Its home at the Yokohama Institute for Earth Sciences is built to resist earthquakes, lightning, and electromagnetic fields. The supercomputer made headlines just weeks after the workshop when its developers at NEC and several Japanese government agencies announced on 22 April that it had achieved 35.6 teraflops (trillion floating point operations per second). The feat makes it five times faster than the previous record holder, the IBM system called ASCI White at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The Earth Simulator project is overseen by MEXT, Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology.

Visiting Japan the week of the announcement was NCAR director Tim Killeen, along with colleagues Blackmon, James Hack (NCAR Climate and Global Dynamics Division), Al Kellie (director, NCAR Scientific Computing Division), and Clifford Jacobs of NSF’s Division of Atmospheric Sciences. The group had been invited by colleagues at CRIEPI, Japan’s Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry, to discuss current and future collaborations, some potentially involving the Earth Simulator. Over three days the group also met with Earth Simulator staff, toured the facility, and discussed research possibilities with Taroh Matsuno, director-general of the Frontier Research System for Global Change, the scientific group based at the Earth Simulator.

Blackmon expects collaboration with Japanese colleagues on NCAR’s Community Climate System Model to continue as the world of high-performance supercomputing evolves.

The Earth Simulator includes a total of 640 machines, all connected by a 12-gigabyte-per-second network.

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Edited by Bob Henson, bhenson@ucar.edu
Prepared for the Web by Carlye Calvin
Last revised: Tues June11 17:05:07 MDT 2002