Supercomputer tapped for 3D models of oil spill

Effort will focus on the inland effects of oil

The National Science Foundation has made an emergency allocation of 1 million compute-hours on a supercomputer at the Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas to create 3-D models of the spreading oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, according to published reports.

"The goal of this effort is to produce models that can forecast how the oil may spread in environmentally sensitive areas by showing in detail what happens when it interacts with marshes, vegetation and currents," wrote Patrick Thibideau in Network World.

What may be as important are models that forecast what might happen if a hurricane carries the oil miles inland, he added in his article. NSF is funding the use of the Texas computing power for the modeling.

The computer models currently available are not detailed enough to show just what happens as the oil nears the coast line, said Rick Luettich in the article. Luettich is a professor of marine sciences and head of the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and one of the researchers on this project.

"I don't think that they have any idea how this oil is predicted to move through the marshes and the nearshore zone," said Luettich.

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