Supercomputer! NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center

Supercomputer! NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center


[gentle instrumental music] – Hi, I’m Matt Mead,
Governor of Wyoming. I want to welcome you to the NCAR-Wyoming
Supercomputing Center. We are very pleased to have this
supercomputer here in Wyoming. I’m here with my friend,
former Governor Freudenthal. Governor Freudenthal. – Governor Mead. My name’s Dave Freudenthal, and I was Governor
from 2003 to 2011. The development of this project
was a partnership that came together
with great energy and enthusiasm both from the state of Wyoming
and from the federal government. This facility is important because it will
add to our knowledge about the interaction of storms, weather, drought, wildfires, energy production,
agriculture, and all of those things
that are important in the West. But they are also important
in the United States and throughout the world. – What is the atmosphere? The atmosphere
is a very thin layer that surrounds the entire Earth. It’s about six miles thick, and it contains everything: oxygen, nitrogen,
the air we breathe, and almost all of the weather: clouds, thunderstorms,
tornadoes, hailstorms, hurricanes, blizzards,
and rainbows. The atmosphere also carries
pollen, smog, air pollution, and the greenhouse gases
that cause global warming. Sometimes the atmosphere literally comes down
on our head, whether it’s low-lying clouds
or a fog-like mist. The atmosphere is dynamic,
it’s beautiful, and it’s constantly changing. Our discipline cannot survive
without supercomputers. They do things
like simulate the climate, help us predict where
severe weather will occur, what storms will produce
tornadoes, floods, help us figure out where air pollution
will be transported, and really start
looking at things that affect people’s daily lives if not for their
future generations. We try very hard
to make our science relevant to the general public. – Original supercomputers
were room-sized and really didn’t have
any more capability than today’s cell phone. Weather models
weren’t very accurate. A severe storm
looked like nothing more than maybe a small blob
on a screen. Today we are much better
with the accuracy, but greater accuracy requires
more computing power. More computing power requires
more processors. This facility has been designed to handle that demand
into the future. A computer is nothing more than
a bunch of circuits. When a circuit changes
its state, converts from a zero to a one,
it gives off heat. For this facility, we use
tens of thousands of processors. Computers malfunction
when they overheat, so it’s critical
that we keep them cool. We’ve taken advantage
of the region’s climate. This building
brings in cold air, exhausts the hot air, and we also recycle the heat throughout the rest
of the building. This facility was designed to be energy efficient
and flexible. Some of the key energy
efficiency features are floor vents,
this large fan wall, and we also take advantage of
renewable energy such as wind. – This is actually
very technologically complex. There’s 72,000
individual processors located on over 4,000 nodes, and then these nodes
are all interconnected via a high-speed
interconnect fabric that lets them
communicate with each other, so it actually makes it
one computer. Cable management,
as you can see behind me, is a huge challenge here. There’s over 12,000 cables. Every cable is labeled. It’s tested. So despite
the angel hair pasta look, there’s a lot of order
in the disorder. One of the biggest challenges when you have
all of these processors trying to talk with each other is moving data between them. so there’s really two things
we worry about: one is latency,
and the other is bandwidth. Moving data around
is a lot like plumbing. Latency is
the amount of time you wait for that hot water to get
from your hot water heater to your sink, basically the time
from point A to point B. Bandwidth is like
the gallons per hour you can move through the pipes. So it’s the volume of data
that you can move. At any given time
on this computer, we are able to move
billions of bytes of data through tens of miles of cable
on this system, and moving that data
is just critical to actually doing the science. – Imagine millions and millions
of grid boxes spread out over the Earth
in a mesh in three dimensions, stretching from
the bottom of the ocean to the top of the atmosphere
and into outer space. And these grid boxes are where the physical
quantities are stored— for example, temperature,
pressure, and wind velocities— and they’re calculated upon
using the laws of physics and chemistry
and thermodynamics, and each processor takes a relatively equal chunk
of these boxes and works on
that part of the problem. So in the same way that ants
in an ant colony might work together
to accomplish something, these processors all team up and use the network
to work on the same task. However, the way
the laws of physics work, you need to actually talk
to your neighbors to find out
what’s going on next to you to do these calculations, and that’s where
the communication comes in. It would take a person working
with a hand calculator literally hundreds of millions
of years to do the calculations that one of these supercomputers
can perform in a matter of a few seconds. All these connections between
the different processors that are signaling each other is in many ways analogous
to the way neurons work in your brain, working together
to form a sentient being. – Supercomputers
and the computational models that we run on them allow us to study
important issues related to climate,
to weather, the atmosphere around us, to energy,
to water and ecosystems, to how all of these systems
interact with the human system. What we as humans do greatly
affects the world systems, and supercomputers allow us
to model these Earth systems and take into account complexities
and interdependencies that we’ve never
been able to before. Supercomputers are one tool. It augments experiment
and theory, but because of the complexity
of these problems, supercomputers are in many ways
the most efficient and the most powerful tools
at this particular time. At the University of Wyoming, we are already integrating
the use of supercomputers into our classes, both at the undergraduate
and the graduate level. We find that supercomputing
allows our students to have a real
interdisciplinary experience and provide them with skills
that they’ll need for their future careers. – One example for how
supercomputers help us better understand
the Earth system is by modeling the sea ice. And looking at its influences
on the atmosphere and on the ocean, we can get a good sense
of how variations or long-term changes
in the Arctic sea ice pack are going to affect
the atmospheric conditions, precipitation,
rainfall, snowfall, and the general climate. Sea ice is incredibly important
for the Earth’s climate. It acts kind of
as the Earth’s refrigerator. Sea ice is a very bright,
reflective surface. What that means is that it
reflects a lot of sunlight away from the Earth’s surface and causes the Earth’s surface
to cool, so when you replace ice
with open ocean, you lead to a situation where
you absorb a lot more heat. And that gets you
in this vicious cycle where you absorb more heat,
you melt more ice, you absorb more heat, and so it just acts to amplify
warming in the system. Our models solve the equations
that describe how sea ice moves, how it melts and grows in response to winds
and ocean currents, and how it regulates the
transport of heat from the ocean into the atmosphere. So the sea ice component
of our climate models describes all of these
different aspects, and that piece interacts
with an atmospheric model, an ocean model,
a land surface model, and all of those parts
of the climate system interact. They exchange heat. They exchange water,
precipitation. We have equations that describe
all of these things. What this requires is a vast
amount of computational power, which means that we
have to use supercomputers to study this problem. Supercomputing gives us
the capability to look at the Earth
using a virtual laboratory. Supercomputers allow us
to study the interconnectedness and the intricacies
of coastlines, urban areas, habitat, animals, and the food web
and biodiversity. Supercomputers are allowing us to look at all these different
aspects of the problem, how all these things
are interconnected, how they impact
and modify each other. A better understanding
of climate science is critically important
for people because we have to live
in this climate. So we need to understand
those variations, those changes, those interconnections,
because it affects us.

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