Supercomputers tackle challenges of life in the Far North
Submitted by Debra Damron
With an ability to solve 30 trillion arithmetic calculations a second, the newest supercomputer at the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center is helping researchers develop advanced tools for arctic-specific, high-resolution weather forecasting to include models of smoke dispersion from wildfires.
Supercomputers at ARSC are also being used to build models that risk managers in coastal communities can use to better understand how melting ice sheets affect sea levels worldwide.
These stories and more are featured in the 2009 edition of Challenges, the annual magazine of scientific discovery, analysis and prediction published by the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The magazine is online at www.arsc.edu/challenges/2009/ and features web extras, including a time-lapse movie of the installation of Pingo, a 3,456-processor Cray XT5 supercomputer.
Supercomputers are an essential tool in addressing, understanding and solving some of Alaska's and the nation's most important challenges.
ARSC is the sole provider of open research computing capabilities for the Defense Department's High Performance Computing Modernization Program. There are six DoD Supercomputing Resource Centers throughout the country: two in Mississippi and one each in Maryland, Ohio, Alaska and Hawaii. ARSC distinguishes itself by conducting computational scientific analysis and research in polar regions.
High-latitudes environmental modeling seeks to better understand and predict phenomena ranging in size from microns to thousands of miles, and ranging in time from fractions of a second to millennia.
Geophysical phenomena of interest include oceans, the atmosphere, hydrology and ice. Within ecosystems, fisheries and other living things are examined, as well as the complex changes to and interactions among ecosystems over time.