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Seven UW Projects Awarded Use of Cheyenne Supercomputer

February 10, 2016
rows of computer servers
Seven new projects, led by UW researchers, were chosen to receive computational time and storage space on the supercomputer in Cheyenne. (UW Photo)

Seven projects, many of which have applications to Wyoming issues -- including wind farm efficiency, aerosol impacts on snowpack and snow melt, and cloud formation -- were recently chosen to receive computational time and storage space on the supercomputer in Cheyenne.

University of Wyoming faculty members will lead projects that will use the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center (NWSC). Each project was critically reviewed by an external panel of experts and evaluated on the experimental design, computational effectiveness, efficiency of resource use, and broader impacts such as how the project involves both UW and NCAR researchers; strengthens UW's research capacity; enhances UW's computational programs; or involves research in a new or emerging field.

The Wyoming-NCAR Allocation Panel recently evaluated the large allocation requests to use computational resources at the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center, says Bryan Shader, UW’s special assistant to the vice president of research and economic development, and a professor of mathematics.

“The projects were granted allocations totaling 42 million core hours. In addition, 6 million core hours were recently awarded to a new faculty member as part of his start-up package,” he says.

Twenty-five UW-led projects used Yellowstone (the nickname for the supercomputer) in 2015, and this places Wyoming as the top university in total allocations, users and usage among all universities that use the NWSC.

Since the supercomputer came on line during October 2012, allocations have been made to 42 UW research projects, including these latest seven, which commenced this month.

The newest projects, with a brief description and principal investigators, are as follows:

-- A project, titled “Climate Change Impacts on Precipitation and Snowpack in Wyoming Using a Dynamical Downscaling Method with CCSM Bias Corrections,” is funded by the UW Office of Water Program. This on-going project will use modeling to study how trends in regional climate affect precipitation, snowpack dynamics and stream flow in the headwaters region surrounding Wyoming.

Bart Geerts, a UW professor of atmospheric science, heads the project. Collaborators include Yonggang Wang, a UW post-doctoral scientist; Changhai Liu, from NCAR’s Research Applications Laboratory; and Xiaoqin Jing, a UW doctoral student.

-- A project, titled “WRF Non-LES and LES Simulations of the Cloud Microphysical Effects of Ground-Based Glaciogenic Seeding of Orographic Clouds,” will study the impact of ice-crystal seeding on clouds and precipitation over mountains in the Interior West. The project will use data from a 2008-2014 seeding project in Wyoming, and the power of computational simulations to help guide an NSF-funded cloud seeding campaign to begin in early 2017.

Geerts also heads this project. Collaborators are Jeff French, a UW assistant professor of atmospheric science; Lulin Xue, a project scientist with NCAR’s Research Applications Lab; and Xiu Chu, a UW doctoral student.

two women in lab coats working in a lab full of high tech equipment
Lamia Gaoul (left), an adjunct professor in UW’s School of Energy Resources (SER), leads a research project that will undertake a series of simulations aimed at elucidating hydrocarbon/mineral interactions under reservoir conditions with a focus on the effects of fluid composition, surface roughness, and brine salinity on dynamic surface wettability in carbonate systems. (UW Photo)

The project is funded through an ongoing NSF grant with Roy Rasmussen and Dan Breed, both with NCAR; and a pending NSF grant with French and Robert Rauber, a professor and head of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign.

-- A project, titled “Surface Phase Behavior of Hydrocarbon Mixtures in Natural Mineral Media,” will look at oil production from both conventional and unconventional reservoirs, and how it can be highly dependent on mineral-fluid interfacial phenomena. This project will undertake a series of simulations aimed at elucidating hydrocarbon/mineral interactions under reservoir conditions with a focus on the effects of fluid composition, surface roughness, and brine salinity on dynamic surface wettability in carbonate systems.

Lamia Gaoul, an adjunct professor in UW’s School of Energy Resources (SER), leads the project. Collaborators are Mohammad Piri, the Wyoming Excellence Chair in Petroleum Engineering and a UW professor of petroleum engineering in the SER; and Will Welch, a post-doctoral researcher in petroleum engineering.

-- A project, titled “Modeling Planet/Disk Interactions to Understand Planet Formation,” is motivated by the challenge to determine how exoplanets (that is, planets that orbit stars other than the sun) form. Disks of gases and debris around young stars hold vital clues to exoplanet formation. By creating a library of simulated images of a range of disks, Hannah Jang-Condell, a UW assistant professor of physics and astronomy, hopes to be able to determine properties of real disks by comparing capture images with simulated images.

Jang-Condell heads the project that is funded by the NASA Exoplanet Research Program.

-- A project, titled “Effect of Microscale Phenomena on Macroscale Events,” will enable Zac Lebo, a new UW faculty member, to pursue his research on cloud systems. Cloud formation is one of the key components that governs Earth’s atmosphere. Yet, basic questions about cloud formation remain unanswered. Lebo, a UW assistant professor of atmospheric science, will develop models and algorithms to better understand how changes in objects and processes (aerosols and nucleation) that can’t be seen can influence phenomena – clouds and weather -- that affect everyday life.

Project collaborators are Ben Shipway and Adrian Hill, both from the UK Meteorological Office; and Hugh Morrison from NCAR. The project is funded through start-up funds from UW’s Office of Research and Economic Development.

-- A project, titled “High-Resolution Climate Simulations and Future Climate Projections in the Rocky Mountain Region (RMR) Using the Variable-Resolution CESM (VR-CESM),” will assess the performance of the variable-resolution NCAR Community Earth System Model (VR-CESM) in simulating the regional climate in the RMR. In addition, the role of deposition of absorbing aerosols (black carbon, organic carbon and dust) on snow, and the impact of future climate variations on the hydrologic cycles in the RMR, will be investigated.

Xiaohong Liu, the Wyoming Excellence Chair in Climate Science and a professor of atmospheric science, is the project leader. Collaborators are Geerts and Jianting “Julian” Zhu, a UW associate professor of civil engineering; Andrew Gettleman and Colin Zarxycki, both from NCAR; and UW doctoral students Chenglai Wu and Zheng Lu.

The project is funded through a College of Engineering and Applied Science grant.

-- A project, titled “Computational Study of Wind Turbine Performance and Loading Response to Turbulent Atmospheric Inflow Conditions,” will allow a UW research team to further develop, validate and employ a suite of software tools and models to predict performance of wind farms consisting of hundreds to thousands of turbines. The models will account for spatial and temporal scales over eight orders of magnitude -- from the continental scales that govern wind patterns to the thin boundary layers over the wind turbine blades.

Dimitri Mavriplis, a UW professor of mechanical engineering, is the project lead. Collaborators are Michael Stoellinger, a UW assistant professor of mechanical engineering; Tom Parish, department head and a UW professor of atmospheric science; and Jon Naughton, a UW professor of mechanical engineering.

Funding is provided through a U.S. Department of Energy grant secured by Naughton.

man sitting at desk in front of computer
Xiaohong Liu, the Wyoming Excellence Chair in Climate Science and a professor of atmospheric science, will assess the performance of the variable-resolution NCAR Community Earth System Model (VR-CESM) in simulating the regional climate in the Rocky Mountain Region. (UW Photo)

By the numbers

The most recent recommended allocations total 42 million core hours, 71 terabytes of storage space, 222 terabytes of archival storage, and 9,000 hours on data analysis and visualization systems, Shader says. To provide some perspective on what these numbers mean, here are some useful comparisons. In simplest terms, Yellowstone can be thought of as 72,567 personal computers that are cleverly interconnected to perform as one computer. The computational time allocated is equivalent to the use of the entire supercomputer for 13 days­, 24 hours a day. The 222 terabytes of storage would be enough to store the entire printed collection of the U.S. Library of Congress more than 20 times.

Yellowstone consists of about 70,000 processors, also known as cores. An allocation of one core hour allows a project to run one of these processors for one hour, or 1,000 of these for 1/1,000th of an hour.

A new supercomputer, dubbed Cheyenne, is expected to be operational at the beginning of 2017. The new high-performance computer will be a 5.34-petaflop system, meaning it can carry out 5.34 quadrillion calculations per second. It will be capable of more than 2.5 times the amount of scientific computing performed by Yellowstone.

The NWSC is the result of a partnership among the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), the operating entity for NCAR; UW; the state of Wyoming; Cheyenne LEADS; the Wyoming Business Council; and Cheyenne Light, Fuel & Power. The NWSC is operated by NCAR under sponsorship of the NSF.

The NWSC contains one of the world's most powerful supercomputers dedicated to improving scientific understanding of climate change, severe weather, air quality and other vital atmospheric science and geo-science topics. The center also houses a premier data storage and archival facility that holds historical climate records and other information.


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