This week the world’s most powerful climate change supercomputer switched on at the National Center for Atmospheric Research‘s Wyoming Supercomputing Center (NWSC). The 1.5-petaflop IBM supercomputer known as Yellowstone will be used to study everything from atmospheric disturbances to subterranean faults. It is hoped that the results will help improve predictions of tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts, and other natural disasters.

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The center is located in Cheyenne’s North Range Business Park and the new computer system will allow researchers around the world to access their projects remotely via a laptop or desktop computer and the Internet. The new center’s advanced computing resources will aid understanding of complex processes at work in the atmosphere and throughout the Earth, and the computer will “accelerate research into severe weather, geomagnetic storms, climate change, carbon sequestration, aviation safety, wildfires, and other critical geoscience topics.”

The NWSC itself has been awarded LEED Gold certification for its sustainable design. The center takes full advantage of Cheyenne’s elevation and cool, dry climate by employing ambient air to cool the facility nearly year-round, significantly reducing its energy use. 10% of its power also comes from a local wind farm!

“This center will help transform our understanding of the natural world in ways that offer enormous benefits to society,” says Thomas Bogdan, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), which manages NCAR on behalf of the National Science Foundation (NSF). “Whether it’s better understanding tornadoes and hurricanes, or deciphering the forces that lead to geomagnetic storms, the Yellowstone supercomputer and the NWSC will lead to improved forecasts and better protection for the public and our economy.”

“Our access to Yellowstone will allow the university to reach new heights in our educational and research endeavors in engineering; atmospheric, hydrological, and computational sciences; Earth system sciences; and mathematics,” says UW President Tom Buchanan. “The supercomputer is a huge draw for students and faculty. It opens the door to scientific innovation and discovery that will benefit our state, the nation, and the world.”

+ NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center

Via Time Techland