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Four Projects Headed by UW Researchers Selected for Supercomputer Use

September 30, 2014
man sitting by stream with laptop computer
Fred Ogden will develop a computer model of the Colorado River Basin to study how factors such as population growth, shifting land uses and climate variability impact water storage and availability in Wyoming and the region. (UW Photo)

Carbon sequestration, planet formation and two projects that focus on water are the subjects of research University of Wyoming faculty members are conducting with the assistance of the supercomputer in Cheyenne.

Four UW research projects recently were awarded computational time and storage space on 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.

“Since the opening of the NWSC in October 2012, 26 UW research projects have used the NWSC,” says Bryan Shader, UW’s special assistant to the vice president for research and economic development and a professor of mathematics. “This past year, among universities, UW ranked number one in total allocations and total users, and number two in active projects. Currently, UW has 22 active high-performance computing projects.”

Seven projects received allocations in November 2012; another six were selected in February 2013; four more were chosen during July 2013; five were picked in December 2013; and the four recent projects were selected this summer. The newest projects started Aug. 1.

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

-- A project, titled “Cyber-infrastructure Petascale Computation Model for the Colorado River Basin,” received 3.6 million core hours. The goal of the project, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), is woman with laptopto develop models to study how factors such as population growth, shifting land uses and climate variability impact water storage and availability in Wyoming and the region. This joint project involves UW, the University of Utah, Utah State University and Brigham Young University.

Fred Ogden, UW’s Cline Distinguished Chair in the Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering and Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources; and Craig Douglas, a professor of mathematics and the School of Energy Resources, head the project.

-- UW Geology and Geophysics Associate Professor Ye Zhang's project, titled “Optimal Model Complexity in Geological Carbon Sequestration,” received a whopping 23.8 million core-hour allocation. This project, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, will develop accurate simulation models that allow better prediction of the potential leakage of subsurface reservoirs used to store or sequester carbon dioxide.

-- Noriaki Ohara, a UW assistant professor of civil engineering, heads a project, titled “Dynamical Regional Downscaling of Hydroclimate over Complex Terrain.” It concerns the important roles -- both as regulators and sources -- of water supply, and how changes in the hydroclimate of mountains can alter the availability of water and ultimately impact economic vitality. This project will be the first to perform numerical simulations at a very fine scale (1 kilometer). The project is a joint effort with Thomas Reichler, an associate professor of atmospheric science at the University of Utah, and is funded, in part, by the World Bank. A total of 4.5 million core hours, as well as 60 terabytes of storage and 214 terabytes of archival storage, was awarded.

-- Hannah Jang-Condell, a professor in the UW Department of Physics and Astronomy, leads a project, titled “Thermodynamics of Shadowed Protoplanetary Disk Gaps.” This NASA-funded project explores where and when planets form relative to the disks of gas and dust left after the formation of a star.

By the numbers

The NWSC supercomputer, nicknamed 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. The largest allocation awarded among these is equivalent to being able to run all 70,000 processors for 24 hours a day for 16 days.

The Wyoming share of the NWSC resources is currently 75 million core hours of computing on Yellowstone; around 400 terabytes of high-performance storage on GLADE; and 5 petabytes of longer-term tape storage on HPSS.

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 and sponsored by the NSF.

The NWSC contains one of the world's most powerful supercomputers (1.5 petaflops, which is equal to 1.5 quadrillion mathematical 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 houses a premier data storage (16 petabytes) and archival facility that holds historical climate records and other information.

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