Incredibly Powerful New Climate-Modeling Supercomputer Is In The Works (Video)


One of the world's most powerful supercomputers dedicated to modeling the Earth's climate and weather is due to be replaced in 2017 with an even more sophisticated machine, researchers say.

Silicon Graphics International Corp. will build the replacement for the current computer located at the Wyoming Supercomputing Center in Cheyenne, operated by the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

A machine with 2.5 times the computing power will replace the current computer, dubbed Wyoming, a release from NCAR headquarters in Boulder, Colo., announced.

The new machine, to be named Cheyenne, will be capable of computing at 5.34 petaflops, carrying out 5.34 quadrillion calculations per second.

The existing Wyoming machine, used for climate and weather research since 2012 by more than 2,200 scientists and 300 universities, is ranked among the 60 fastest supercomputers in the world.

It won't be taken offline when Cheyenne debuts, researchers say, but will continue to work alongside the new machine.

That's because bandwidth and time on supercomputers is usually shared among many researchers and projects.

"The machine is usually working on dozens of problems at the same time in a kind of mix of jobs that are running on it," explains Rich Loft, the center's director of technology. "Some of those jobs might take a quarter of the machine. Others might take only one percent."

Although only in operation since 2012, the Wyoming unit is being replaced because of the rapid rate of technology advances, he says.

"Things get better, faster cheaper. That's the whole story of computers," Loft says. "Certainly you know, if you have a phone, it starts to feel clunky after a few years."

The new Cheyenne computer is being funded by the National Science Foundation and by the state of Wyoming through an appropriation to the University of Wyoming.

It will help in studying diverse topics, including climate change and severe weather, geomagnetic storms, air quality, seismic activity, wildfires and other significant earth science subjects.

Using 90 percent of the electricity the Wyoming machine consumes, Cheyenne will be three times as efficient while taking up only a third as much physical space, the researchers say.

The new machine is being named in honor of the support received from the people of Cheyenne, and to celebrate the upcoming 150th anniversary of the founding of the city in 1876 and its naming for the American Indian Cheyenne nation.

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