New NCAR, ORNL climate simulation doubles detail of previous models

June 26, 2002

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., June 26, 2002 -- Climate studies just doubled in resolution because of a new model developed and implemented by researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and Oak Ridge National Laboratory and run on the Cheetah supercomputer.

"The kind of science that ORNL's Cheetah enables is already apparent," said Warren Washington, NCAR senior scientist. "The tremendous computing power this machine provides has allowed us to perform simulations that will allow for better regional detail, which important for understanding the local impacts of global climate change."

ORNL's Cheetah has 4.5 teraflops (4.5 trillion calculations per second) of computing power and on Thursday was listed No. 8 in the Top500 list of fastest computers in the world.

While the first test computation at higher resolution shows improvements in several areas, there are still some shortcomings not related to resolution, Washington said. Tony Craig and Tom Bettge of NCAR and Trey White of ORNL were able to configure a new climate model that is optimized for Cheetah, which is the nickname for ORNL's IBM Power4 System-based computer. Jim Hack of NCAR provided improvements in the atmospheric parameters at the new higher resolution and testing will continue for several more months.

"As more computational power is unleashed on the problem of climate change," Washington said, "there will be more regional climate detail in this version of the model. Subsequently, this model will be used for studies of the multiple feedbacks between increased carbon loading of the atmosphere, dynamic ecosystems and air quality."

The new model improves resolution from 2.8 degrees to 1.4 degrees.

The new higher resolution simulation is a first look at the newest United States-coupled climate model, the Community Climate System Model 2. In this model, mathematical equations are solved representing the fluid circulation of the oceans, atmosphere and sea ice as well as interactions with the land/vegetation systems. All these components of the Earth climate system interact with a complexity still only partially understood, creating El Nino and other cyclic patterns.

"Having the capability to more accurately simulate these interactions allows climate researchers to predict what changes are in store for us in coming decades and centuries," ORNL's White said.
CCSM is supported by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy. ORNL is a DOE multiprogram research facility managed by UT-Battelle. NCAR is operated by University Corporation for Atmospheric Research under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation. The National Science Foundation has been NCAR's primary sponsor since its inception. In addition, the center carries out research sponsored by a number of federal agencies.


You may read other press releases from Oak Ridge National Laboratory or learn more about the lab at

DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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