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How will Blue Waters benefit science?

The Blue Waters supercomputer is one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world for open scientific research when it comes online at Illinois in 2011. How will scientists and engineers across the country use this tremendous resource? How will their research be advanced by a supercomputer that can do 1 quadrillion calculations every second?

Many scientists are working now with the Blue Waters team so they are ready to use the massive sustained-petaflop supercomputer when it comes online in 2011. These teams will use Blue Waters to improve our understanding of everything from the Earth’s climate to earthquakes.

A team from the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Colorado State University, the University of Miami, and the Institute for Global Environment and Society will use Blue Waters to test two hypotheses about the Earth’s climate system. The first hypothesis is that the transport fluxes and other effects associated with cloud processes and ocean large-scale eddy mixing are significantly different from the theoretically derived averages embodied in current-generation climate models, and that these differences explain a large portion of the errors in these models. The second is that a more faithful representation of these eddy-scale processes will increase the predictability of the climates generated by climate models. The team plans to perform three sets of numerical experiments using three cutting-edge climate models: the Community Climate System Model, a new version of the Community Climate System Model that includes an innovative treatment of cloud processes, and the Colorado State University Global Cloud-Resolving Model.

Change an organism’s environment, and it adapts. That’s true of complex creatures, and it’s true of unicellular organisms. A research team led by the University of California at Davis’ Ilias Tagkopoulos will use Blue Waters to model multi-scale biological systems where processes from gene expression and intracellular biochemistry to ecosystem dynamics are in play. The study will look at the influence of nutrient concentrations and mutation on adaptation, compare different strategies for survival in static and fluctuating environments, and examine how unicellular organisms modify their internal networks to facilitate such changes. This modeling approach has been used on today’s supercomputers, but it requires a number of simplifications. The team anticipates that Blue Waters will allow some of these simplifications to be relaxed, so that more biological processes can be included.

A team led by the University of Southern California’s Thomas Jordan will prepare a set of three seismic and engineering modeling codes to run on Blue Waters. The codes model fault rupture, propagate seismic energy through a detailed structural model of Southern California, predict ground motion, and model building response to earthquakes. The goal of this PRAC project is to combine the use of these codes to understand building damage likely to result from realistic, strong earthquakes. The improved earthquake simulations will provide better seismic hazard assessment and inform the design of safer building codes.

For more information about Blue Waters and how it will benefit scientific research, see

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