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Climate supercomputer model to receive $70 million research boost

The Department of Energy is looking to improve its complex climate model, which runs on the world's fastest computer

The supercomputer Frontier sits in a brightly lit server room

The US Department of Energy (DoE) has announced seven new projects to receive a total of $70 million funding, which will work to improve its climate prediction model.

The Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM) is the DoE’s advanced model for climate prediction, operating at exascale levels to provide extremely detailed simulations of weather systems, changes in ocean currents, and decade-long shifts in climate.

The projects are expected to assist in the development of more advanced simulations, covering areas a specific as ice-flow to provide a more accurate overall view of climate change.

E3SM is run on Frontier, the DoE’s supercomputer that in May officially took the title of the world’s fastest computer. Having exceeded 1 ExaFlop/s in a benchmark, Frontier has a theoretical maximum speed of 2 exaflops, which can be expressed as two quintillion calculations per second. In total, the system includes over 9,400 CPUs and over 37,000 GPUs.

Funding was allocated through the DoE Funding Opportunity Announcement for Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing, with $70 million over the next five years and $14 million expected this fiscal year.

The list of winning projects includes Los Alamos National Laboratory’s (LANL) ‘Framework for Antarctic System Science in E3SM’, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s (PNNL) ‘Capturing the Dynamics of Compound Flooding in E3SM’, and The University of Mexico’s ‘Improved Coupled Climate Simulations in E3SM Through Enhanced Sea-Ice Mechanics’.

In June, the DoE Argonne National Laboratory announced the release of an updated version of E3SM titled E3SMv2, which runs at over double the speed of the older model. It is capable of modelling global atmospheric conditions at a resolution of 100km, as well as a more refined 25km resolution over North America.

Also included in the update was a new input output (I/O) library labelled SCORPIO, which utilises more efficient algorithms and improved data caching to speed up the overall I/O process.

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The funding comes shortly after the Inflation Reduction Act was signed into law by President Biden, which allocates $369 billion toward renewable energy and energy security. It will provide companies with large tax incentives for adopting greener technologies, which could lead to more sustainability firms starting up, or spur green digital transformation.

“Being able to understand and predict what is happening in a system as complex as planet Earth is crucial to finding solutions to climate change,” said U.S. secretary of energy Jennifer M. Granholm. 

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