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Superfast 'Gaea' supercomputer helps scientists model the Earth’s climate
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Superfast 'Gaea' supercomputer helps scientists model the Earth’s climate

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Contact: John Ewald, 240-429-6127

NOAA scientists are using a newly upgraded powerful high performance computer to improve our understanding of the Earth’s climate system. Named Gaea, meaning “mother earth” in Greek mythology, it is one of the world’s fastest computers dedicated to climate research and modeling. 

Located at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn., Gaea now has a computing capacity on the order of a petaflop – or one thousand trillion mathematical operations per second – which is eight to nine times more than NOAA’s previous research and development computing capability.

This new supercomputer allows researchers to develop and refine advanced climate models, enhances scientific understanding of climate variability and change, and improves the accuracy of global and regional climate model projections at a finer resolution and on a timeframe that is more useful for decision makers and sectors such as agriculture, energy, and transportation.

Earth system models are among the newest tools for assessing the causes and effects of past, present, and future climate and ecosystem changes. Improved models will help scientists understand the roles and relative contributions of greenhouse gases and small atmospheric particulates, carbon sources and sinks, ocean acidification, clouds, and nutrient cycles to the overall climate system.

Flock of red phalarope

Flock of red phalarope

A flock of red phalarope, identified by Charlie Wright of USFWS, circles above the Arctic Ocean. Credit: Meredith LaValley, Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee

A vigorous effort is under way to build prototype high resolution coupled models to study climate change, variability and predictions. In these coupled models, grid cells are substantially smaller than in our standard climate models, therefore significantly more of them are required to cover the globe, needing, increased computational resources. However, the benefit is the potential for a more realistic simulation of the climate system, including its inherent variability and response to external forcings, such as increasing greenhouse gases.

Gaea was funded by a $73 million American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 investment through a collaborative partnership between NOAA and the Department of Energy.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us at www.noaa.gov and join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.

On the Web:
NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory
GFDL Earth System Models
DOE Oak Ridge National Laboratory
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