Supercomputer makes it possible to develop a Brazilian Global Climate System Model

November 05, 2010

The Brazilian Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE, National Institute for Space Research), operating under the auspices of the Ministério da Ciência e Tecnologia (MCT, Ministry of Science and Technology), began the installation of a supercomputer to be used for the development and implementation of the Brazilian Global Climate System Model. The model is designed to analyze interactions among elements of the earth system--the atmosphere, oceans, cryosphere, vegetation, and biogeochemical cycles--and will increase understanding of the influence that anthropogenic activities, such as the emission of greenhouse gases, changes in vegetation, and urbanization, have on the regional and global climate. The work will be carried out at the INPE Centro de Ciência do Sistema Terrestre (CCST, Earth System Sciences Center), in collaboration with the INPE Centro de Previsão de Tempo e Estudos Climáticos (CPTEC, Center for Weather Prediction and Climate Studies), the University of São Paulo, and the Federal University of Viçosa, together with a number of other national and international institutions.

The new supercomputer will be used by researchers involved in the Global Climate Change Research Program, launched in 2008 by the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP, São Paulo Research Foundation). The Program is aimed at developing a computational model for climate simulations of future scenarios and climate projections, even on timescales of decades or centuries. Therefore, the modeling will involve an immense number of variables and will require a commensurate amount of computational power. The researchers will also investigate technologies aimed at mitigating emissions and adapting to climate change; provide data to inform decisions regarding climate policies; and maintain archives of regional paleoclimatic observations.

Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, scientific director of FAPESP, says that "FAPESP organized this research program in order to join the elite ranks of the few countries that have the capability to create and analyze global climate models. This is clearly in the national interest, especially as it relates to the Amazon and South Atlantic regions." He added, "Our partnership with the MCT allowed us to fast-track the acquisition of the equipment, and the involvement of the INPE guarantees excellent institutional support, including the adaptation of programs designed for use with previous models."

The supercomputer will also be used by research groups working at universities that belong to the Rede Brasileira de Pesquisa sobre Mudanças Climáticas Globais (Rede CLIMA, Global Climate Change Research Network of Brazil), as well as by those working at the MCT and at the Brazilian Instituto Nacional de Ciência e Tecnologia para Mudanças Climáticas (INCT-MC, National Institute of Science and Technology for Climate Change).

The acquisition of this equipment puts the INPE among the five leading climate modeling research centers in the world. Manufactured by Cray Inc., in the state of Wisconsin (USA), the new supercomputer has 1,272 nodes, each with a maximum velocity of 192 gigaflops per second, achieving a peak performance of 244 trillion floating point operations per second (teraflops).

Through funding provided by FAPESP and the MCT, the equipment was purchased at a price of approximately US$30 million. This new computational system will provide the INPE with a 50-fold increase in its capacity to process climate data and will incorporate recent advances in the areas of numerical modeling, climate change modeling, and data assimilation, as well as oceanic studies, vegetation studies, and studies of the chemical and physical processes of aerosols in the atmosphere. The added computing power will also serve to improve numerical weather prediction by allowing the use of models with higher spatial resolution.

Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo

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