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Riverton Student Names New Supercomputer

in News/Good news
Wyoming NCAR Supercomputer
Courtesy: ©UCAR; photo by Carlye Calvin

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Riverton middle school student got the opportunity last week to name one of the world’s fastest supercomputers.

Cael Arbogast submitted the winning name “Derecho” for the new system being installed at the National Center for Atmospheric Research Wyoming Supercomputing Center in Cheyenne.

The term “derecho,” derives from the Spanish word for “direct” or “straight ahead,” and refers to a line of powerful and damaging storms that often pack hurricane-force winds and unleash heavy rains and flooding. It’s the type of destructive weather event that scientists hope to learn more about by using the new supercomputer to conduct advanced simulations of atmospheric conditions and other aspects of the Earth’s system.

“I picked this name because a derecho is an intense, widespread and fast-moving windstorm that travels long and great distances bringing many storms with it,” Arbogast wrote with his submission. “This new supercomputer has to move at fast speed for everybody to use all across the country. I thought this name would be a good fit provided that lots of scientists and others will be using this computer all across the country and for weather all throughout the world.”

“Derecho” was selected out of more than 200 submissions from K-12 students all over Wyoming.

Derecho will become operational in early 2022. Built by Hewlett Packard Enterprise, the supercomputer will have the theoretical ability to perform 19.87 quadrillion calculations per second.

That is about 3.5 times the speed of scientific computing performed by the current NWSC supercomputer, “Cheyenne.”

“We are very excited to have such a meaningful name for this powerful new supercomputer,” said Anke Kamrath, director of NCAR’s Computational & Information Systems Laboratory. “The state of Wyoming has been a wonderful home for the supercomputing center, and we could not be more pleased that ‘Derecho’ comes from a Wyoming student.”

Once it begins operations, Derecho is expected to rank among the top 25 or so fastest supercomputers in the world.

“This name is perfect,” said Ed Synakowski, vice president for research and economic development at the University of Wyoming. “Cael’s suggestion projects intensity, directionality, connectedness and complexity. The name immediately conveys that one is talking about a machine that is exciting and purposeful. The students stepped up beautifully in offering this and other great candidate names for this new system.”

Derecho will be used to advance the Earth system sciences, enabling researchers to better understand a range of phenomena that affect society, from hurricanes and seismic activity to climate change and solar storms.

Although it won’t be used for forecasting, Derecho will help scientists improve the tools needed to better predict severe weather, flooding and other damaging events.

“Our school and community are beyond proud of our student, Cael, for being selected for this prestigious honor,” said Riverton Middle School Principal Aziz Waheed. “To be able to name one of the fastest supercomputers for the National Center for Atmospheric Research is not something many people in the world can say they have done.”

Funding for Derecho, which will cost $35 million to $40 million, comes from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

NCAR also works with Wyoming schools to highlight the importance of scientific research and the opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.

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Wyoming to Be Home to One of the World’s Fastest Supercomputers

in News/Technology

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

One of the fastest supercomputers in the world will be in operation in Cheyenne by next year, where it will help scientists research a wide range of weather phenomena that affect society.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research announced this week that its new supercomputer would be funded by Hewlett-Packard to the tune of $35-$40 million. Once operational, the HPE-powered system is expected to rank among the top 25 or so fastest supercomputers in the world.

The supercomputer will be installed in Cheyenne sometime this year and will be operational by early 2022. It will replace the current system, which is known as “Cheyenne.”

“This new system is a major step forward in supercomputing power, providing the scientific community with the most cutting-edge technology to better understand the Earth system,” said Anke Kamrath, director of NCAR’s Computational and Information Systems Laboratory. “The resulting research will lead to new insights into potential threats ranging from severe weather and solar storms to climate change, helping to advance the knowledge needed for improved predictions that will strengthen society’s resilience to potential disasters.”

NCAR is holding a statewide contest for Wyoming students to propose a name for the new system.

The new machine will help scientists conduct research needed to better understand a range of phenomena that affect society, from the behavior of major wildfires to eruptions caused by solar storms that can threaten GPS and other sensitive technologies.

The new computer will have the ability to perform 19.87 quadrillion calculations per second, almost 3.5 times the speed of the Cheyenne supercomputer. That is the equivalent of every man, woman, and child on the planet solving one equation every second for a month.

“More powerful supercomputing is a vital component of the research infrastructure of our nation, enabling scientists to advance fundamental research and deepen our understanding of the complex and interconnected nature of the Earth system,” NCAR Director Everette Joseph said. “This new NWSC system will support basic research in ways that will lead to more detailed and useful predictions of the world around us, thereby helping to make our society more resilient to increasingly costly disasters and contributing to improved human health and well-being.”

In 2017, IBM contracted with the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center in Cheyenne with a project to help improve weather forecasting around the globe. 

Since the NWSC opened its doors in 2012, more than 4,000 users from more than 575 universities and other institutions across the nation and overseas have used its resources. 

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UW students, NCAR Supercomputing Center help improve forecasts in Asia, Africa, South America

in News/weather
Wyoming NCAR Supercomputer
Courtesy: ©UCAR; photo by Carlye Calvin

By Laura Hancock, Cowboy State Daily

In the United States, Japan and a handful of western European countries, people can access state-of-the-art weather forecasts that are updated once an hour. 

That’s not the case with the rest of the world. Most people only get weather forecasts with such sophistication once every six or 12 hours.

But a team of undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Wyoming, led by Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Suresh Muknahallipatna, is working to change that. 

In 2017, IBM contracted with the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center in Cheyenne with a project to help improve weather forecasting around the globe. NCAR then hired the UW team, Muknahallipatna said. 

The key to generating forecasts quickly lies with supercomputers with specialized electronic circuits called graphic processing units. GPUs are capable of better graphic resolution and can update at a greater frequency, according to IBM.

Traditionally, most weather forecasting originates on supercomputers built only with central processing units, Muknahallipatna said.

So the job of the UW team, Muknahallipatna said, is to take code from the supercomputers that only have CPUs and “refactor” it for supercomputers that contain graphic processing units. Refactoring essentially requires restructuring the computer code. 

“By running this on the graphic processing unit we can finish the computations in less than an hour, so you can have a forecast every hour,” he said. 

IMB said in a statement that while there are some computers that have the ability to do fast, high-resolution forecasts for a region, what makes the work it’s doing with NCAR and UW unique is that it’s the first global weather computer model to run on a graphics processing unit with “high-performance computing architecture.”

“This is the first time a full global model exists to provide forecasts for the day ahead at this scale, resolution and frequency,” according to an IBM statement. 

The forecasting gaps the UW is helping to fill include areas among those most vulnerable to increasingly extreme weather resulting from climate change, the company said, specifically pointing to Asia, Africa and South America.

And more frequently updated weather forecasts can make all the difference to people who live off the land. 

“The enhanced forecasts could be revolutionary for some areas of the world, such as for a rural farmer in India or Kenya,” Cameron Clayton, head of IMB subsidiary The Weather Company, said in a prepared statement. “If you’ve never before had access to high-resolution weather data but could now anticipate thunderstorms before they approach your fields, you can better plan for planting or harvesting.” 

The work is providing UW students experience that has led to internships and job offers, Muknahallipatna said.  

“All of them having been doing refactoring code,” he said. “It’s very a special skill set, not all students have this skill.”

Refactoring requires the students to understand code, or software, but also a machine’s hardware. 

“That is why electrical engineering and computer engineering are suited for high-performance computation coding,” he said. “You need to know both software and hardware.”

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