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Seven UW Research Projects Chosen for First Cycle of Supercomputer Use

June 13, 2012
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UW faculty (representing seven projects) will spearhead research on the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center (NWSC) this fall. The research entails several areas, including hydrology of the Colorado River Basin; planet formation from star debris; and model dynamics of fluid, such as wind through a turbine.

The National Science Foundation has chosen seven University of Wyoming research projects -- ranging from hydrology of the Colorado River Basin to planet formation from star debris to fluid dynamics of wind turbines -- that will use the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)-Wyoming Supercomputing Center (NWSC) in Cheyenne this fall.

As a result, selected UW faculty members -- many who have conducted research on desktops or on small campus clusters in the past -- will be able to run larger-scale, high-resolution models which  account for more complexity. The computational science research projects, headed by seven UW professors, will use approximately 27 million core hours.

"UW's computational researchers are working on projects that are of great importance to Wyoming, the U.S. and, in fact, the entire world. All of this research is big science," says Bryan Shader, UW's special assistant to the vice president of research and economic development, and a professor of mathematics. " ... It (27 million core hours) will support seven large projects and involve close to 40 researchers, faculty, post-docs, graduate students and undergraduate students."

Shader says research projects -- submitted to NSF by the UW-NCAR Alliance (WNA) Resource Advisory Panel (WRAP) -- were selected based on several criteria, including: scientific merit of the project; the need for supercomputing resources in the projects; the efficient use of computational and storage resources; and the broader impacts of the project (i.e., substantial involvement of both UW and NCAR researchers; strengthening of UW's research and education capacity; and  strengthening of university computational science capacity or research in a new or emerging area of earth system science).

Meet the professors

Principal investigators, project titles and synopses, and any supporting UW faculty and students, are as follows:

Bart Geerts, professor of atmospheric science, and Wojciech Grabowski with NCAR, "Very High-Resolution Seasonal Simulation of Precipitation Over the High Plains and Rocky Mountains in a Changing Climate." The goal of this project is to develop very high-resolution models that properly produce the fine-scale patterns of both cold-season snowfall and warm-season convective precipitation found in the high plains and Rocky Mountains.

This is a joint project with NCAR's Changhai Lui and Roy Rasmussen. Yonggang Wang, a UW post-doctoral student, is a UW team member.

Geerts also received allocations for a second project, titled "Large Eddy Simulations of the Cloud Microphysical Effects of Ground-Based Glaciogenic Seeding of Orographic Clouds." This project will explore the ways that dramatic advances in computational power and, in the understanding of aerosol and cloud processes, can provide enhanced models and predictive capabilities for cloud seeding. Experimental data collected in the Sierra Madres by UW's King Air research aircraft also will be used in the research.

NCAR's Dan Breed and Rasmussen will serve as co-principal investigators. Team members include NCAR's Lulin Xue and UW graduate student Xia Chu.

Dimitri Mavriplis, professor of mechanical engineering, "Highly Parallel Advanced Computational Fluid Simulation Models for Geoscientific Applications." Many physical and engineering processes involve the flow of fluid (for example, the flow of wind around a turbine blade or the flow of water in the subsurface). Developing models to accurately simulate these processes is an important area of active research.

This project is an interdisciplinary effort to develop a unified simulation system that can exploit the cutting-edge supercomputer's capabilities to allow simulation of fluid flows that properly incorporate interactions that occur across a broad range of spatial and time scales. Jay Sitaraman, a School of Energy Resources assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Jonathan Naughton, associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of UW's Wind Energy Center, will serve as co-principal investigators.

Po Chen, SER associate professor of geology and geophysics, and Liqiang Wang, associate professor of computer science, "Full 3-D Waveform Tomography Based on the Discontinuous Galerkin Method." The proposed project will apply a newly developed, full-wave seismic data assimilation technique to image crustal and upper-mantle earth structures in the San Andreas Fault at Parkfield, Calif., for seismic hazard analysis/mitigation purposes.

Hannah Jang-Condell, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, "Structure, Dynamics, Thermodynamics and Chemistry of Shadowed Proto-planetary Disk Gaps." This research seeks to better understand the mechanisms that govern the formation of planetary systems from gas and dust. The supercomputer will enable simulations that will provide a better understanding of how growing planets affect, and are affected by, their dynamical and radiative environments.

Felipe Pereira, SER professor of mathematics and director of the Center for Fundamentals of Subsurface Flow, "Maximization of Permanent Trappings of CO2." The project's goal is to develop scientifically correct models -- based on first principles and accurate simulators -- to produce reliable predictions of multiphase flows in the subsurface. Pereira will look at modeling how CO2 -- to prevent its release into the atmosphere -- can be sequestered in a geologic tomb. UW faculty members Mohammad Piri, Victor Ginting, Fred Furtado, Lami Goual and Shunde Yin; and post-doctoral students Marcos Mendes and Arunsalam Rahunanthan, also will participate.

Fred Ogden, the Cline Distinguished Chair in the Department of Civil & Architectural Engineering, and Haub School of Environmental and Natural Resources; and Craig Douglas, SER professor of mathematics and director for the Institute for Scientific Computation; will team up for a project titled "CI-Water Petascale Computational Model for the Upper Colorado River Basin."

A comprehensive model of the upper Colorado River Basin -- at a resolution 100 times higher than currently available -- will be created. This model will better enable policy and management decisions regarding water in the basin.

This project is a collaborative effort involving UW, Brigham Young University, University of Utah and Utah State University; as well as a researcher in NCAR's Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF)-Hydro team and members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' adaptive Hydraulics Modeling team. Scott Miller, associate professor, spatial processes hydrologist; and Ye Zhang, assistant professor of geological modeling & simulation, are other UW team members.

More supercomputer use opportunities lie ahead

Additional UW faculty members will apply for NWSC allocations during the next proposal cycle, Shader says. The next proposal deadline is Dec. 16, 2012.

Professors who submit successful proposals for the second cycle could be using the supercomputer as early as the end of January during UW's 2013 winter term, he says.

"It is anticipated that many other UW researchers will seek out (supercomputer) allocations in upcoming cycles," Shader says.

The NWSC is the result of a partnership among the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR); the University of Wyoming; the state of Wyoming; Cheyenne LEADS; the Wyoming Business Council; Cheyenne Light, Fuel and Power; and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. NCAR is sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The NWSC will contain some of the world's most powerful supercomputers (1.5 petaflops, which is equal to 1.5 quadrillion computer operations per second) dedicated to improving scientific understanding of climate change, severe weather, air quality and other vital atmospheric science and geo-science topics. The center also will house a premier data storage (11 petabytes) and archival facility that holds irreplaceable historical climate records and other information.

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