Supercomputer at work in arctic

The Arctic Region Supercomputing Center last week began using a new Cray Inc. supercomputer in one of the first projects to investigate how changes in the arctic may influence world climate.

The Cray SV1ex system, part of a $3 million contract announced in September 2000, replaces the center's Cray SV1 supercomputer and offers faster clock speeds and more memory. Additional enhancements to the system memory are scheduled for later this quarter.

The new supercomputer will be used to apply a global climate model that simulates the atmospheric response to changes in sea ice over the Arctic Ocean. Those simulations will help the team at the center understand how shrinking sea ice affects the atmosphere.

Researchers traditionally study the tropics for clues to global weather patterns, but this project is one of the first to examine how changes in the arctic may affect the world's climate.

The Cray SV1ex product line is the technological forerunner to the Cray SV2 supercomputer, due out in the second half of 2002. Each Cray SV1ex processor has a peak performance of 2 gigaflops, or 2 billion calculations per second.

Frank Williams, ARSC director, said the new system also is being used to study atmospheric, environmental and geophysical problems that are unique to the higher latitudes. He said the Cray system offered the "cutting edge" in technology and an "improvement to our scientists and researchers."

ARSC's government and academic researchers have found the new supercomputer's improved clock speed and high-speed cache memory to be especially useful in running applications in ocean modeling, climatology and space physics, Williams said.

ARSC provides high-performance computational, visualization, networking and data storage resources for researchers within the Defense Department, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, other academic institutions and government agencies.

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