CISL Seminar Series- Sophie Hou

Data Stewardship and Engineering Team (DSET) - Building Community Informed and Driven Data Services

Sophie Hou

Building roads to match tomorrow's weather

April 20, 2017 | When engineers design roads, bridges, and other types of transportation infrastructure, they need to account for local weather patterns. Extreme heat or freeze-thaw cycles can lead to ruts and cracks in roads, and heavy rains can overwhelm inadequate drainage systems, washing out bridges and flooding key transportation corridors.But how should engineers design new transportation projects, which may last for a half-century, if climate change will greatly alter weather patterns? The extent to which temperatures and precipitation may change in the future has become a major concern for the transportation industry.To address this issue, climate scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) are launching an innovative collaboration with civil and environmental engineers at Carnegie Mellon University and the RAND Corporation. They're using global and regional computer models, along with statistical techniques, to generate projections of future climate in ways that will be most helpful to infrastructure designers and planners, especially when it comes to drainage.A girl looks at a washed-out road in Louisville, Colorado, after damaging floods in 2013. Engineers are teaming up with climate scientists to design transportation infrastructure that can withstand shifting weather patterns. (Photo by David Hosansky.)The three-year project, funded by the National Science Foundation, will focus on Pittsburgh and several other cities across the country that will likely be affected in different ways by future climate."Our overriding goal is to enable transportation agencies to maximize the lifetime performance of new infrastructure while minimizing the costs to ensure its resilience to extreme weather events," said NCAR scientist Linda Mearns, the principal investigator on the project.Several recent studies led by NCAR scientists have underscored the extent to which climate change may affect future temperature and precipitation extremes in the United States. One concluded that, if emissions of greenhouse gases continue along a business-as-usual course, record daily high temperatures will outpace record daily lows by about 15 to 1 later in the century. A second study, also looking at emissions continuing on a business-as-usual path, concluded that incidents of extreme rainfall may increase by as much as five times in parts of the country.More detail means more uncertaintyTo conduct the new project, Mearns and her colleagues are working closely with local transportation officials and other stakeholders. Rather than analyzing the overall ways that climate is likely to change in the target cities, they're focusing on information that will be most useful to the design and construction of drainage infrastructure and other transportation systems."This requires very active engagement with stakeholders," Mearns said. "It's working together to determine what they want versus what we can actually provide and coming up with measures of uncertainty that are meaningful for them. This is in the realm of true coproduction of knowledge."For example, an engineer designing a drainage system along a highway might want an estimate of how much precipitation will fall in 15-minute increments. Although climate models do not provide such detailed information, Mearns and her colleagues can provide a partial answer by using a combination of techniques to produce projections of future precipitation every hour to several hours, as well as characterizing the uncertainty around those projections.A major challenge is that more detailed projections have greater uncertainty. While climate models consistently show that emissions of greenhouse gases lead to higher average global temperatures, the outlook is less clear for temperature and precipitation patterns by region. The type of information most needed by infrastructure planners and designers—projections of extreme temperatures and precipitation for specific locations and time periods—is even more uncertain. As a result, the study team will have to make compromises between the need for high-resolution data and the need for reliable data.Mearns said it's critical to give engineers a clear understanding of the uncertainty of a particular projection in order to prevent transportation projects from being based on a false sense of precision in climate projections. "The challenge," she said, "is developing sound engineering strategies for extremes under uncertainty."In addition to Mearns, the NCAR scientists working on the project include Seth McGinnis, Melissa Bukovsky, Rachel McCrary, and Doug Nychka. The Carnegie Mellon team is being led by Costa Samaras, who directs the school's Center for Engineering and Resilience for Climate Adaptation.“This project is a unique interdisciplinary collaboration that will advance the ways engineers and climate scientists will work together in the future,” said Samaras. “Infrastructure can last for many decades, and engineers need to design infrastructure to be resilient at the end of the infrastructure life span as well as in the beginning. Working with NCAR is critical to advancing the research needed to transform the way we design infrastructure in the United States."The benefit of different techniquesTo generate climate projections, Mearns and her colleagues will use two types of techniques to translate the coarse resolution of a global computer model, which typically simulates climate processes that are larger than about 100 miles, into the localized weather events that are of interest to transportation experts.One of these techniques, known as dynamical downscaling, will use a combination of three coarser-resolution global climate models and two higher-resolution regional models (including the NCAR-based Weather Research and Forecasting model, or WRF). This will enable the researchers to simulate the entire globe in coarse resolution while zooming in on selected regions with much higher resolution. This approach doesn't need as much supercomputing power as trying to simulate the entire globe in high resolution, although it still can be computationally intensive.The other technique, known as statistical downscaling, involves developing statistical relationships between large-scale atmospheric patterns and local temperatures and precipitation. This technique, which requires even less computing, can help scientists link conditions in a global model (such as a large area of low pressure) to a localized weather event (such as intermittent downpours).The combined approaches will enable the scientists to generate projections for at least every six hours, and possibly—with the use of additional specialized techniques—as frequently as every hour. Using both the dynamical and statistical approaches also will enable the team to better understand the uncertainties around future climate as well as evaluate the relative strengths of the techniques."Transportation systems are critical to the U.S. economy, and they represent some of the largest investments of our tax dollars," Mearns said. "We want to make sure that they'll hold up to a future climate."FunderNational Science FoundationPartnersCarnegie Mellon UniversityRAND CoroporationWriter/contactDavid Hosansky, Manager of Media Relations

Our People - Rory Kelly

April 19, 2017 | On weekdays in winter, while most people are still sleeping, Rory Kelly is driving to a ski area in the dark, slipping into his ski mountaineering gear, and training for two hours before heading back to Boulder for his job as a software engineer in NCAR's Computational and Information Systems Laboratory (CISL).

A tribute to Steve Worley

April 14, 2017 | At the 30-year mark of his career at NCAR, Steve Worley is announcing his plans to begin a phased retirement. From now into 2018, Steve will be transferring his responsibilities in CISL’s Data Support Section (DSS) to DSS staff and assisting with Doug Schuster’s transition to DSS Manager. Steve will reduce his working hours to 60 percent in July 2017, and in September 2017 he will conclude his third year as Chair of NCAR’s Data Stewardship Engineering Team (DSET).

CISL Seminar Series - Building and Using CESM2

Building and Using CESM2
Jean-François Lamarque
Senior Scientist, NCAR/ACOM & CGD

New apps set atmospheric data spinning in 3D

Feburary 6, 2017 | Students of microbiology can grow bacteria in petri dishes to better understand their subject. Paleontology students have fossils, and chemistry students have beakers bubbling with reactions. But students of the atmospheric and related sciences are often left with something much less tangible: data, and lots of it.The Meteo AR app uses augmented-reality techniquest to make atmospheric science data more accessible to the public. (©UCAR. This animation is freely available for media & nonprofit use.)Datasets in the atmospheric sciences cover everything from observations made by weather balloons to satellite measurements of cloud cover to output from climate model runs.Now the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is helping make those data less abstract and more concrete  — a little closer to a rock sample and a little further from a computer file. The result is two apps: one using virtual-reality and one using augmented-reality techniques to create 3D visualizations of datasets on a globe that students can move around and view from different perspectives. Meteo VR (Virtual Reality) and Meteo AR (Augmented Reality) are available for use on iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. They were developed by NCAR's Computational and Information Systems Lab (CISL)."The goal is to make our data more accessible to the public, especially to students," said Tim Scheitlin, a senior software engineer at CISL's Visualization Lab. "We think it's a fun way to start a dialogue about atmospheric science. If people can get excited about using the app, then maybe they'll start asking questions that will lead to a deeper understanding."The 'wow' factor and beyondThe Meteo AR app takes advantage of the camera on a personal device. When the camera's pointed at an image from a visualization — of sea surface temperature anomalies during an El Niño, or of the inner workings of a hurricane, for example — the visualization pops up onto a 3D globe that can be spun around with a finger.The Meteo VR app requires a virtual reality headset, such as Google Cardboard, and allows the user to "fly around" the globe to look at the projected dataset from any angle.Development of the two apps was led by Nihanth Cherukuru, a doctoral student at Arizona State University. He came to NCAR last summer as part of CISL's Summer Internships in Parallel Computational Science (SIParCS) program, which strives "to make a long-term, positive impact on the quality and diversity of the workforce needed to use and operate 21st century supercomputers."Cherukuru said one of the challenges of the project was to wrestle the vast amounts of data into a format that wouldn’t crash a handheld device. "Mobile phones are tiny devices and the atmospheric data can be really huge," Cherukuru said. "We needed to take that data and trim it down. We created a single image for each timestamp and then we made animations to reduce the computational burden on the phones."While Cherukuru has returned to Arizona State after his SIParCS internship, he is still working with the Visualization Lab. The goal is to expand the apps' capabilities, perhaps, for example, by having users click on parts of the data to get more information."There's kind of a 'wow' factor you get when you first use the app," Scheitlin said. "Our goal is to get past that and make it as educational as we can." Download the appsMeteo AR:For iPhone or iPadFor AndroidMeteo VR:For iPhone or iPadFor Android Writer/contact:Laura Snider, senior science writer

Turbocharging science

CHEYENNE, Wyoming — The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is launching operations this month of one of the world's most powerful and energy-efficient supercomputers, providing the nation with a major new tool to advance understanding of the atmospheric and related Earth system sciences.Named "Cheyenne," the 5.34-petaflop system is capable of more than triple the amount of scientific computing performed by the previous NCAR supercomputer, Yellowstone. It also is three times more energy efficient.Scientists across the country will use Cheyenne to study phenomena ranging from wildfires and seismic activity to gusts that generate power at wind farms. Their findings will lay the groundwork for better protecting society from natural disasters, lead to more detailed projections of seasonal and longer-term weather and climate variability and change, and improve weather and water forecasts that are needed by economic sectors from agriculture and energy to transportation and tourism."Cheyenne will help us advance the knowledge needed for saving lives, protecting property, and enabling U.S. businesses to better compete in the global marketplace," said Antonio J. Busalacchi, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. "This system is turbocharging our science."UCAR manages NCAR on behalf of the National Science Foundation (NSF).Cheyenne currently ranks as the 20th fastest supercomputer in the world and the fastest in the Mountain West, although such rankings change as new and more powerful machines begin operations. It is funded by NSF as well as by the state of Wyoming through an appropriation to the University of Wyoming.Cheyenne is housed in the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center (NWSC), one of the nation's premier supercomputing facilities for research. Since the NWSC opened in 2012, more than 2,200 scientists from more than 300 universities and federal labs have used its resources."Through our work at the NWSC, we have a better understanding of such important processes as surface and subsurface hydrology, physics of flow in reservoir rock, and weather modification and precipitation stimulation," said William Gern, vice president of research and economic development at the University of Wyoming. "Importantly, we are also introducing Wyoming’s school-age students to the significance and power of computing."The NWSC is located in Cheyenne, and the name of the new system was chosen to honor the support the center has received from the people of that city. The name also commemorates the upcoming 150th anniversary of the city, which was founded in 1867 and named for the American Indian Cheyenne Nation.Contour lines and isosurfaces provide valuable information about turbulence and aerodynamic drag in this visualization of air flow through the blades of a wind turbine, the product of a simulation on the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center's Yellowstone system. (Image courtesy Dimitri Mavriplis, University of Wyoming.) Increased power, greater efficiencyCheyenne was built by Silicon Graphics International, or SGI (now part of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co.), with DataDirect Networks (DDN) providing centralized file system and data storage components. Cheyenne is capable of 5.34 quadrillion calculations per second (5.34 petaflops, or floating point operations per second).The new system has a peak computation rate of more than 3 billion calculations per second for every watt of energy consumed. That is three times more energy efficient than the Yellowstone supercomputer, which is also highly efficient.The data storage system for Cheyenne provides an initial capacity of 20 petabytes, expandable to 40 petabytes with the addition of extra drives.  The new DDN system also transfers data at the rate of 220 gigabytes per second, which is more than twice as fast as the previous file system’s rate of 90 gigabytes per second.Cheyenne is the latest in a long and successful history of supercomputers supported by the NSF and NCAR to advance the atmospheric and related sciences.“We’re excited to provide the research community with more supercomputing power,” said Anke Kamrath, interim director of NCAR’s Computational and Information Systems Laboratory, which oversees operations at the NWSC. “Scientists have access to increasingly large amounts of data about our planet. The enhanced capabilities of the NWSC will enable them to tackle problems that used to be out of reach and obtain results at far greater speeds than ever.”More detailed predictionsHigh-performance computers such as Cheyenne allow researchers to run increasingly detailed models that simulate complex events and predict how they might unfold in the future. With more supercomputing power, scientists can capture additional processes, run their models at a higher resolution, and conduct an ensemble of modeling runs that provide a fuller picture of the same time period."Providing next-generation supercomputing is vital to better understanding the Earth system that affects us all, " said NCAR Director James W. Hurrell. "We're delighted that this powerful resource is now available to the nation's scientists, and we're looking forward to new discoveries in climate, weather, space weather, renewable energy, and other critical areas of research."Some of the initial projects on Cheyenne include:Long-range, seasonal to decadal forecasting: Several studies led by George Mason University, the University of Miami, and NCAR aim to improve prediction of weather patterns months to years in advance. Researchers will use Cheyenne's capabilities to generate more comprehensive simulations of finer-scale processes in the ocean, atmosphere, and sea ice. This research will help scientists refine computer models for improved long-term predictions, including how year-to-year changes in Arctic sea ice extent may affect the likelihood of extreme weather events thousands of miles away.Wind energy: Projecting electricity output at a wind farm is extraordinarily challenging as it involves predicting variable gusts and complex wind eddies at the height of turbines, which are hundreds of feet above the sensors used for weather forecasting. University of Wyoming researchers will use Cheyenne to simulate wind conditions on different scales, from across the continent down to the tiny space near a wind turbine blade, as well as the vibrations within an individual turbine itself. In addition, an NCAR-led project will create high-resolution, 3-D simulations of vertical and horizontal drafts to provide more information about winds over complex terrain. This type of research is critical as utilities seek to make wind farms as efficient as possible.Space weather: Scientists are working to better understand solar disturbances that buffet Earth's atmosphere and threaten the operation of satellites, communications, and power grids. New projects led by the University of Delaware and NCAR are using Cheyenne to gain more insight into how solar activity leads to damaging geomagnetic storms. The scientists plan to develop detailed simulations of the emergence of the magnetic field from the subsurface of the Sun into its atmosphere, as well as gain a three-dimensional view of plasma turbulence and magnetic reconnection in space that lead to plasma heating.Extreme weather: One of the leading questions about climate change is how it could affect the frequency and severity of major storms and other types of severe weather. An NCAR-led project will explore how climate interacts with the land surface and hydrology over the United States, and how extreme weather events can be expected to change in the future. It will use advanced modeling approaches at high resolution (down to just a few miles) in ways that can help scientists configure future climate models to better simulate extreme events.Climate engineering: To counter the effects of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, some experts have proposed artificially cooling the planet by injecting sulfates into the stratosphere, which would mimic the effects of a major volcanic eruption. But if society ever tried to engage in such climate engineering, or geoengineering, the results could alter the world's climate in unintended ways. An NCAR-led project is using Cheyenne's computing power to run an ensemble of climate engineering simulations to show how hypothetical sulfate injections could affect regional temperatures and precipitation.Smoke and global climate: A study led by the University of Wyoming will look into emissions from wildfires and how they affect stratocumulus clouds over the southeastern Atlantic Ocean. This research is needed for a better understanding of the global climate system, as stratocumulus clouds, which cover 23 percent of Earth's surface, play a key role in reflecting sunlight back into space. The work will help reveal the extent to which particles emitted during biomass burning influence cloud processes in ways that affect global temperatures.

CISL Visitor Program Accepting Applications

CISL would like to make the NCAR staff aware of the new CISL Visitor Program (CVP) The program can provide funding, as well as financially leverage other visitor programs at NCAR, for joint collaborative visitors between CISL and other NCAR labs. The visitor must have a CISL staff host. Financial support is limited to travel costs and local living expenses.

Raising the visibility of women in IT

October 17, 2016 | To provide a boost to women working in information technology, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) is helping to bring together a team of women who will help build and operate a high-capacity network at a major supercomputing conference.The Women in IT Networking at SC program, or WINS, is a collaboration among UCAR, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Sciences Network, and the Pennsylvania-based Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research. Following a national competition, WINS selected seven women who work in IT departments at universities and national labs around the country to help build and operate SCinet, the very high capacity network at the SC16 international supercomputing conference in Salt Lake City next month.For the second year in a row, UCAR will help bring together a team of women to provide technical support at SC, a leading supercomputing conference. UCAR's Marla Meehl (left) and ESnet's Jason Zuraski (second from left) are pictured at last year's conference, meeting with WINS team members. (Photo by Marijke Unger, NCAR.)"This provides the women with great exposure to the latest in technology, working with some of the top engineers who are out there," said Marla Meehl, manager of the Network Engineering and Telecommunications Section for UCAR and NCAR, the National Center for Atmospheric Research. "It's an opportunity to learn and have exposure to things that they don't work with every day."Women are increasingly underrepresented in technological fields. A report last year by the American Association of University Women found that the number of U.S. women working in the computing and mathematical professions dropped from 35% in 1990 to just 26% in 2013.Meehl worked with several other IT experts to launch WINS last year and expand the number of women among the volunteers who design and deliver SCinet. Planning begins more than a year in advance and culminates in a high-intensity, around-the-clock installation in the days leading up to the conference."I’m grateful to be one of the WINS grant awardees and participate in SCinet," said Angie Asmus, IT security analyst at Colorado State University. "Because of WINS, I will be able to be mentored by and work with some of the brightest minds in IT. This is an amazing opportunity for me to gain hands-on experience and build important relationships that will be valuable to me as I progress in my career."Other participants are Denise Grayson, Sandia National Laboratories; Julie Locke, Los Alamos National Laboratory; Kali McLennan, University of Oklahoma: Amber Rasche, North Dakota State University; Jessica Shaffer, Georgia Institute of Technology; Julia Staats, CENIC; and, with separate funding, Indira Kassymkhanova of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.The WINS participants were chosen from 28 eligible applicants—a big jump from the 19 applications received the previous year. The selection team weighed a variety of factors, looking for applicants who had experience in networking; whose skillset matched their area of interest; whose participation was supported by their institution; and who added to the group’s diversity, whether geographically, institutionally or otherwise.The WINS awardee selection team, led by Wendy Huntoon of the Keystone Initiative, included Susan Lucas from ESnet, Linda Winkler from Argonne National Labs, Dave Jent from Indiana University, and Florence Hudson from Internet2.Meehl was able to secure funding from the National Science Foundation for participants from research and education organizations. The Department of Energy is supporting the women from its national laboratories.“Although there are more jobs in IT, there’s a massive shortage of workers, especially in the number of women in the field,” Meehl said. “It was really fulfilling this year to see a huge jump in the number of really qualified applicants. It was very hard to choose.”Writer/editor:David Hosansky, Manager of Media Relations

NCAR Hosting GlobusWorld Tour for Developers Oct. 25-26

NCAR/CISL is hosting a Globus tutorial and developer workshop October 25 and 26 at the Center Green campus (CG1) in Boulder. The workshop is open to all UCAR staff and is organized and led by the Globus development team. It is targeted at developers building web applications for research, system administrators who have deployed or are planning to deploy Globus, and others who are interested in learning more about the research data management service.


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