Public Release: 

UVic climate research gets super boost

New supercomputer for climate research

University of Victoria

Researchers at the University of Victoria have a new $12.3 million tool in their quest to understand Earth's past, present and future climate.

UVic climatologist Dr. Andrew Weaver recently took delivery of a NEC SX-6 supercomputer--one of the world's fastest--as the centrepiece of a new regional facility for advanced research on climate change.

The supercomputer was acquired through a $7.46 million in-kind donation from computer manufacturers NEC Corporation and Cray Inc., $2.42 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and $2.42 million from the B.C. Knowledge Development Fund.

"This exceptionally powerful machine will allow us to examine climate questions that haven't been addressed by anyone, anywhere," says Weaver, who is the Canada Research Chair in atmospheric science. Weaver and his team will model the climate system over the last 135,000 years to understand its influence on human evolution--and human influence on climate.

This is the first vector-based supercomputer in Western Canada. Vector computers process data and fetch information from memory in large chunks, as opposed to parallel computers, which process information bit by bit. Vector computing is a huge advantage when dealing with the many variables involved in climate modelling.

The supercomputer will speed up climate simulations by a factor of 20. For example, a recent simulation spanning 20,000 years took six months of real time to complete on the UVic group's current computer system. The NEC supercomputer would process it in a week.

The new supercomputer will help researchers move beyond modelling the physical aspects of climate change toward models that represent the interactions of economic, social, technological and biogeochemical factors, says Weaver.

He and his colleagues are world leaders in climate modelling. Over the last 10 years, they have developed an earth systems climate model--made up of sophisticated ocean, sea ice and land ice components--that is now used by researchers around the world.


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