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Seven UW Research Projects Garner Use of Cheyenne Supercomputer

July 12, 2018
The word Cheyenne in holographic lettering on server cases
Under the latest allocation, UW faculty will have the use of 95 million core hours on the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center to research topics that include energy, the atmosphere, watersheds and wind farms. (UW Photo)

Seven University of Wyoming research projects, many of which will directly impact Wyoming and the nation, have been chosen to receive computational time and storage space at the supercomputer in Cheyenne. Energy, the atmosphere, watersheds and wind farms are some of the research topics.

UW faculty members head 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 National Center for Atmospheric Research (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 evaluates the large allocation requests for the use of computational resources at the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center, says Bryan Shader, UW’s co-chair of the panel and a professor of mathematics. The seven projects were granted allocations totaling 95 million core hours.

“These projects highlight how the NWSC resource enables UW researchers to be more competitive in securing funding and in leading research of importance to the nation and to Wyoming,” Shader says. “Simply put, the access to these computational resources allows UW researchers to address grand challenges such as cleaner fuels, more environmentally sound CO2 storage and enhanced energy production from wind farms. The resources also allow UW researchers to develop better predictive tools for hazardous weather events, such as dust storms, flooding and blizzards.”

Over the last year, 37 UW projects used the NWSC. These allocations and use rank UW as No. 1 in total allocation and total users; No. 1 in total computer usage; and No. 2 in active projects among the more than 100 North American universities using the NWSC.

Since the NWSC opened in October 2012, allocations have been made to 55 UW research projects, excluding the most recent seven awards. For these projects, 138 different users were involved.

Project Rundown

A brief description of each of the UW projects is provided below:

-- Maohong Fan, a School of Energy Resources professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, leads a project, titled “Synergized Transformational Solar Chemical Looping and Photo Ultrasonic Renewable Biomass Refinery.”

Fan will continue to use NWSC’s resources. This project has the potential to directly impact Wyoming’s energy sector through the discovery and design of new catalysts for CO2 and syngas conversion. The project, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), includes collaborators from the University of Delaware, Jackson State University and the University of Mississippi.

man in a lab
Maohang Fan, a School of Energy Resources professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, leads a project that has the potential to directly impact Wyoming’s energy sector through the discovery and design of new catalysts for CO2 and syngas conversion. This project is one of seven in which UW faculty are using the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center for their research. (UW Photo)

-- Zachary Lebo, an assistant professor of atmospheric science, and Bart Geerts, professor and department head of atmospheric science, will lead a joint Department of Energy-funded project to study cold-air outbreaks.

Cold-air outbreaks occur when a cold air mass is exposed to a sufficient fetch of open water and can often produce heavy snowfall. The project will improve understanding of the cloud formation in cold-air outbreaks and ultimately improve weather and climate models. The research is a collaboration between UW and Texas Tech University.

-- Xiahong Liu, professor and Wyoming Excellence Chair in the Department of Atmospheric Science, will lead an NSF-funded study that investigates the dust-climate interactions and the role of these interactions over the past century.

Dust is a major type of aerosol in the atmosphere and a key component of the Earth’s system. Dust can interact with the solar and terrestrial radiation, and hydrological cycles; decrease the surface reflectivity when deposited onto snow/ice; and provide nutrients for the terrestrial and oceanic biogeochemistry. Dust storms, a common occurrence in Wyoming and the West, also can cause air pollution hazardous to human health. A better understanding of driving mechanisms for the dust variations will be used to reduce the uncertainty in the future projection of dust events.

The project includes collaborators from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

-- Wei Wang, a Ph.D. student in UW’s Department of Geology and Geophysics, will lead a project to determine the near-surface structure of the Blair-Wallis watershed, located near Cheyenne. The near surface, also referred to as the Earth’s Critical Zone, consists of the outermost layer of the solid earth. This extends from the deepest reach of groundwater chemical reactions to the top of the vegetation canopy.

The project seeks to better understand physical, chemical, hydrological and biological processes associated with the Critical Zone that create and transform the environment that sustains agriculture and most terrestrial life. Additionally, the research will provide improved tools for estimating potential for CO2 storage.

Fred McLaughlin, senior petrographer with UW’s Center for Economic Geology Research (formerly the Carbon Management Institute), heads this project, which is funded by a Department of Energy grant.

-- Ye Zhang, a UW professor in the Department of Geology and Geophysics, will develop innovative numerical methods to integrate all available data from shallow aquifers and limited data from deep geologic zones to improve the modeling and monitoring of activities with potentially adverse environmental impacts.

Eighty percent of U.S. energy demands are met by subsurface resources. Deep geologic formations also are used as waste repositories, such as in the proposed actions of carbon sequestration. Activities in deep formations have the potential to impact potable water in overlying shallow aquifers that are subject to contamination from leaking brine, hydraulic fracturing fluids or gases from hydrocarbon production.

woman with a stoney wall behind her
Ye Zhang, a UW professor in the Department of Geology and Geophysics, will develop innovative numerical methods to integrate all available data from shallow aquifers and limited data from deep geologic zones. She will use this data to improve the modeling and monitoring of activities with potentially adverse environmental impacts. (UW Photo)

The developed methods will provide a new tool for management of extraction and storage operations from deep reservoirs in ways that lessen their environmental impact. The project is supported by the NSF.

-- Dimitri Mavriplis, a UW professor of mechanical engineering, heads a project that will develop, validate and deploy large-scale, high-scale wind farm simulations. The simulation capability spans multiple-length scales, from the atmospheric turbulence length scales down to the individual blade boundary layer scales, which represent more than 10 orders of magnitude.

Simulations will be validated against available experimental data, and subsequently used to analyze and optimize operational wind farm layouts and control scenarios.

UW researchers involved in the project include professors Jonathan Naughton and Michael Stoellinger in mechanical engineering; Roger Coupal in agricultural and applied economics; Rob Godby in economics; Tom Parish in atmospheric science; Shaun Wulff in mathematics and statistics; and Dongliang Duan, Suresh Muknahallipatna, John O'Brien and John Pierre, all in electrical and computer engineering.

Additionally, the research team includes collaborators from Montana Tech University and Parallel Geometric Algorithms LLC. The project is funded by the NSF and the Department of Energy.

-- Robert Steinke, a UW research scientist, and Fred Ogden, a UW professor of civil engineering, head a project that will incorporate ADHydro, a UW-developed computational tool for forecasting flooding in large watersheds, into the National Water Center’s comprehensive water model.

The recently opened National Water Center brings together the expertise of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Army Corps of Engineers and researchers across the U.S. to improve water resource forecasts, understand how water moves across the land and rivers, and facilitate creative and informed decisions -- all using the best available science.  

ADHydro would provide embedded hyper-resolution simulations of “areas-of-interest,” such as active flood zones where higher resolution is desired than what is provided by the continental scale National Water Model. Higher resolution in these zones would provide higher quality actionable information to water managers and emergency responders. 

By the Numbers 

The most recent recommended allocations total 95 million core hours for UW researchers, Shader says. To provide some perspective on what these numbers mean, here are some useful comparisons. In simplest terms, Cheyenne can be thought of as 145,152 personal computers that are cleverly interconnected to perform as one computer. The computational time allocated to UW researchers for these latest projects is equivalent to the use of the entire supercomputer for 27 days­, 24 hours a day. Cheyenne consists of about 145,152 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.

The supercomputer Cheyenne began operation in March 2017. Its capability to perform 5.34 quadrillion calculations per second places it as the 20th-most capable supercomputer in the world. 

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.

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 Black Hills Energy. The NWSC is operated by NCAR under sponsorship of the NSF.

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