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A new supercomputer operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) -- the most powerful one the agency has -- will soon be used exclusively for climate research.
The 14-cabinet, 260-teraflop system -- a Cray XT6 called "Climate" -- is expected to be operational by Oct. 1, said Buddy Bland, the project director for the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, via email.
The computer is housed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) at the University of Tennessee alongside the most powerful super computers from two other federal agencies -- the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation, he said. ORNL is the Department of Energy's largest science and energy lab.
Currently, Climate is the smallest of the agency supercomputers housed at ORNL. It will gain more power next summer with the addition of 22 XE6 cabinets with 721 teraflops of compute power, Bland said. Some of Climate's cabinets also will get an upgrade in late 2011 or early 2012, he said.
Climate is part of a five-year, $215 million agreement between ORNL and NOAA.
ORNL has been the site of some of the earliest and most powerful supercomputers. In the mid-1990s, the INTEL Paragon -- one of the fastest, non-classified computers at the time -- was located there.
NOAA's supercomputer work has focused traditionally on complex computational modeling to do weather forecasting, but the agency has been shifting its focus to use supercomputers to predicting climate change.
Recently, the agency's use of supercomputers to general 3D models garnered attention when it was used to predict the trajectory of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
NOAA worked with researchers at several U.S. universities to apply a hurricane-modeling system called the Advanced Circulation Model to track the spill.