NeSI’s supercomputer helps shed light on future climate

Changing climate simulation an a computer

“NeSI is providing the supercomputing infrastructure on which we are producing climate simulations, both globally and using a regional climate model. You cannot operate an Earth System Model without a supercomputer.”

Climate change is widely seen as a leading problem of our times. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in its 2013 Assessment Report, states that “human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems.” The impressive ability of climate models to capture many aspects of the climate system has made them the cornerstone of all IPCC assessment reports; they are widely used to quantify the human influence on climate. However, the Earth is a highly complex system, and there remain numerous challenges to improving climate models. Three competing tensions act to increase the computational cost of running a climate model: Firstly, various processes are simplified or absent in models; addressing this requires us to increase the complexity of models. Secondly, the representation of climate usually improves with improved resolution, so there is a tendency to operate these models at as high a resolution as possible. Thirdly, climate is subject to an element of chaos. Therefore large ensembles of simulations are needed to accurately represent the most likely climate evolution and particularly extreme events such as severe storms, floods, or heat waves. For these three reasons, climate modellers often encounter limitations imposed by the computational resource at their disposal, and climate modelling can be the main motivation for upgrading ageing computing infrastructure.

For the complete story, and an excellent animated video of ocean currents visit NeSI – New Zealand eScience Infrastructure