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Summer 2002

NCAR to build software infrastructure for next-generation Earth science modeling collaboration

by Zhenya Gallon

Scientists and engineers at NCAR are part of a national collaboration to build a software framework that will take computer modeling of the Earth’s weather and climate to the next level. The framework signals a new era of coordination and cooperation among nine of the nation's top modeling centers.
Above: Resembling a satellite photo, this depiction of water vapor was generated by the Weather Research and Forecasting model, now being developed through NCAR and several partners. WRF, designed to be used by researchers and daily weather forecasters alike, is one of the applications slated to take advantage of the Earth System Modeling Framework. (Image courtesy WRF.) Right: Cecelia DeLuca. (Photo by Lynda Lester.)

NASA has awarded NCAR and its collaborators (Massachusetts Institute of Technology and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center) $9.8 million for developing and deploying an Earth System Modeling Framework. NCAR will receive $3.8 million of the award for developing core software.

The framework will allow some of the nation's most widely used computer models of the Earth’s climate and weather to work together and permit vast amounts of observational data to be assimilated into the models.

"The new software framework will help scientists and engineers develop and share the modern software components essential to accelerated progress in modeling the Earth’s climate and weather systems," says NCAR director Tim Killeen. "This unprecedented level of cooperation will make models simultaneously easier to develop and more powerful. We’re delighted to have this opportunity to work closely with colleagues around the country." The project leaders are Killeen, John Marshall (MIT), and Arlindo da Silva (NASA Goddard).

Working with partners elsewhere, six software engineers at NCAR will spend the next three years building the core infrastructure, which will offer integrated tools for communication among components, time management, performance profiling, and other common functions. MIT will receive $1.8 million to focus on integration of major climate and numerical weather prediction models. NASA Goddard will apply $4.3 million to data assimilation applications.

"An application running on the framework will resemble a sandwich," says NCAR’s Cecelia DeLuca, one of the partnership’s three technical managers along with Christopher Hill (MIT) and V. Balaji (NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory). The bottom slice of bread is the infrastructure, providing utilities and data structures that allow developers to build applications more easily. The top slice is the superstructure—tools for coupling that allow model components to work together. The software written for specific modeling applications is the sandwich filling.

The Earth System Modeling Framework will handle all interconnections among atmosphere, land, ocean, and other models coupled to form larger environmental models. The framework will help improve the fidelity and predictive capability of the models by making it much simpler for researchers to compare alternative scientific approaches from many different sources.

"This is the first step in a progression that will enable the modeling community to use its resources more effectively and ultimately produce better science to serve the nation’s needs," says DeLuca.

The framework grant is part of a three-year, $22.8 million initiative for 11 teams to develop advanced scientific software frameworks for high-end computers. The Computational Technologies Project in NASA's Earth Science Technology Office is funding the initiative.

On the Web:
Earth System Modeling Framework

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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