NCAR to Acquire New Computer for Antarctic Weather Forecasts
January 27, 2005
BOULDER—A new computer for issuing daily weather forecasts over Antarctica will arrive at the National Center for Atmospheric Research on Monday, January 31. NCAR scientists will use the new IBM e1350 to run the Antarctic Mesoscale Prediction System (AMPS), a computer model based at NCAR that issues operational forecasts important for researchers stationed in Antarctica. The forecasts are especially critical during rescue operations.
"This computer is a tremendous boost in our ability to support science and logistics in Antarctica," says Jordan Powers, project leader for AMPS, a joint effort by NCAR and Ohio State University.
The IBM e1350 will be able to run a 20-kilometer (12-mile) version of AMPS about four times faster than the current system runs a coarser 30-km (19-mile) version. Refining the model's grid to 12 miles will capture small-scale cloud systems and other atmospheric events in even the most remote areas of Antarctica. They also intend to incorporate NCAR's newest forecasting system, the Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF), into AMPS.
Although the AMPS model's primary use is to provide daily weather reports for United States Antarctic Program, Powers points out that many other nations rely on these forecasts. When the German supply ship Magdalena Oldendorff became trapped in packed ice during the Antarctic winter in 2002, the South African Weather Service used AMPS forecasts to guide a rescue ship to pick up the passengers. Last year, rescuers turned to AMPS forecasts again when flying to the South Pole to evacuate an ill researcher.
The National Science Foundation, NCAR's primary sponsor, funded the computer through a special award from its Division of Atmospheric Sciences, with research support from the NSF Office of Polar Programs.
"The IBM e1350 system acquired to support AMPS is a relatively inexpensive yet powerful supercomputer. It's designed to meet near-term modeling needs, but it can also be expanded to accommodate possible future increases in AMPS model resolution and complexity," says Tom Engel of NCAR's Scientific Computing Division. SCD will begin installation Monday.
Powers and team will initially use a special configuration of the widely used MM5 mesoscale weather model to run AMPS. After the transition from the MM5 to WRF, they will extend AMPS to run twice-daily 15-km (9-mile) weather forecasts over all of Antarctica. Each forecast will require between 4 and 5.5 hours of computing time.
With a peak computational capability of nearly 600 billion calculations per second, the e1350 is well suited to its forecasting tasks. It also brings more than 270 gigabytes of memory and 3 terabytes of disk capacity. It will be connected to NCAR's massive data storage system and local area network via Ethernet links.
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For more information about the role of AMPS in Antarctic rescue
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