Public Release: 

'Petascale computing' may improve storm predictions, AAAS Annual Meeting speakers report

American Association for the Advancement of Science


AUDIO: Thomas H. Dunning, director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, discusses a supercomputer called Blue Waters during the AAAS Annual Meeting. view more

Credit: AAAS

Scientific computing is rapidly moving to the petascale, a quadrillion arithmetic operations per second, according to speakers at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), scheduled for 12-16 February in Chicago, Illinois.

Thomas H. Dunning, director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, will discuss a supercomputer called Blue Waters during the AAAS Annual Meeting. He also explained the need for such a powerful computer in a related AAAS podcast.

Blue Waters is set to come on line in 2011 at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. Dunning says it will be capable of sustained operations at the petascale and will enable scientists to model complex systems such as severe storms, seismic waves and galaxy formation as never before.

"We certainly see tornado prediction as being an area that will be strongly impacted by having petascale computers," Dunning says on the AAAS podcast. "You would have a much greater opportunity to seek shelter."

Such use of computing "big iron" has long been at the forefront of scientific computing. But researchers also use computing grids -- linked processors at dozens of computer centers around the globe -- to store and analyze huge amounts of data in disciplines such as high-energy physics. And computing also is moving into the era of "the Cloud," with information processing and applications hosted in cyberspace rather than on specific processors and silicon racks.

Some specialists predict that within a few years, 80 to 90 percent of the world's computing and data storage will occur "in the Cloud." Wherever the computing is done, whether on "big iron" or in servers and processors spread around the globe, the computer industry's "carbon footprint" needs to be reduced. The GreenLight Project at the University of California, San Diego, is one effort to sharply reduce the amount of energy use per computer server rack.

Two AAAS Annual Meeting symposia will address supercomputing. One session, entitled "The Grid, the Cloud, Sensor Nets, and the Future of Computer," will take place Saturday, 14 February from 10:30 a.m. until Noon CST in the Hyatt Regency Chicago, Columbus Hall. Another session, entitled "Big, Small and Everything in Between: Simulating Our World Using Scientific Computing," is set for Sunday, 15 February, from 1:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. CST in the same location. A related press briefing will take place at 2:00 p.m. CST Saturday, 14 February.

Other speakers in the AAAS Annual Meeting press briefing on this topic will be Michael R. Nelson, visiting professor of communication, culture and technology, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.; Tom DeFanti, research scientist, California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, University of California, San Diego; and Kelvin Droegemeier, meteorologist and associate vice president for research, University of Oklahoma, Norman.


Media Note

Additional information on AAAS Annual Meeting news can be provided in advance to reporters who ensure adherence to the embargo policy. Reporters, please contact Earl Lane or Molly McElroy, (202) 326-6440, or; or Ginger Pinholster, (202) 326-6421,, before 12 February. After 12 February, call (312) 239-4811 to reach the AAAS Annual Meeting Newsroom on-site in the Hyatt Regency Chicago, Acapulco Room, West Tower. Embargoed news will be available to reporters via the AAAS virtual newsroom online at EurekAlert!,, beginning Monday, 9 February. To register as press, credentialed journalists can log onto

About AAAS

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science ( AAAS was founded in 1848, and serves 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, reaching 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The non-profit AAAS ( is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!,, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS.

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