Department of Energy to Provide Supercomputing Time to Run NOAA’s Climate Change Models

September 8, 2008

NOAA Administrator Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr. (left) and DOE Under Secretary for Science Dr. Raymond L. Orbach (right).

NOAA Administrator Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr. (left) and DOE Under Secretary for Science Dr. Raymond L. Orbach (right).

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science will make available more than 10 million hours of computing time for the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to explore advanced climate change models at three of DOE’s national laboratories as part of a three-year memorandum of understanding on collaborative climate research signed today by the two agencies.   

NOAA will work with climate change models as well as perform near real-time high-impact (non-production) weather prediction research using computing time on DOE Office of Science resources including two of the world’s top five most powerful computers – the Argonne National Laboratory’s 557 TF IBM Blue Gene/P and Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s 263 TF Cray XT4. NOAA researchers will also receive time on DOE’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. 

Advanced, high-resolution climate models from NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) will be prototyped and compared to other models like the NSF-DOE sponsored Community Climate System Model. This partnership is also consistent with the goals of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, which is responsible for facilitating the creation and application of knowledge of Earth’s global environment through research, observations, decision support, and communication. NOAA and DOE scientists play key roles in national and international assessments, for example, the Nobel Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Under the agreement, the Office of Science and NOAA will work together to “improve the quality of and quantify the uncertainty of climate and weather prediction, including improving the prediction of high-impact weather events to provide the best science-based climate and weather information for management and policy decisions.”

“The Energy Department computers will provide a unique platform for studying the efficiency, scalability, and throughput characteristics of our NOAA climate models. We can systematically compare it to other climate models and evaluate its simulations against data collected by atmospheric radiation measurements,” said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator.

“The collaboration under this MOU will enable our country to take leadership in both regional and global climate change prediction, enhancing our ability to develop national policy,” said DOE Under Secretary for Science Dr. Raymond L. Orbach. “This will also improve weather prediction to help protect lives and property, as well as the nation’s energy infrastructure.”

DOE’s Office of Science supports research, including climate modeling to:  improve understanding of factors affecting the Earth's radiant-energy balance; predict accurately any global and regional climate change induced by increasing atmospheric concentrations of aerosols and greenhouse gases; quantify sources and sinks of energy-related greenhouse gases; and improve the scientific basis for assessing both the potential consequences of climatic changes and the benefits and costs of alternative response options.

NOAA looks forward to working with DOE’s technical staff and applying advanced, computationally expensive climate models prototyped on DOE systems to address crucial climate change problems such as drought, water resources, and a rapidly changing Arctic.

“Such high-resolution simulations will give us a better understanding of the impact of cloud feedbacks on the sensitivity of climate to increased greenhouse gases and improve understanding of future trends in high-impact weather events,” said Lautenbacher.

There is no transfer of funds under the agreement.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources. 

The Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the nation and helps ensure U.S. world leadership across a broad range of scientific disciplines. The Office of Science supports a diverse portfolio of research at more than 300 colleges and universities nationwide, manages 10 world-class national laboratories with unmatched capabilities for solving complex interdisciplinary scientific problems, and builds and operates the world’s finest suite of scientific facilities and instruments used annually by more than 21,000 researchers to extend the frontiers of all areas of science. More information on the Office of Science is availalbe on their Web site.