Environmental Movement Goes High Performance (Computing)

Green technologyPerhaps the days of camping out in a tree, protesting, chaining yourself to objects, not bathing and going au naturale are over. It’s not that the environmental movement is dying. Quite the contrary. It seems to be gaining momentum, but inside the high performance computing industry. What better way to work within “the system,” than to use very high performance computing systems? While we know HPC systems are solving many of the worlds’ problems, as noted by Adaptive’s CEO Rob Clyde on Bloomberg TV this last week, that doesn’t mean this author is a technological messianist. But what is better suited to prove out complicated climate and environmental theory than a 10+ petaflop supercomputer? Well, maybe I am a technological messianist then.

What single issue is at the forefront of the modern day environmental movement?

If you answered deforestation or acid rain, you would be incorrect. Climate change is the rallying point all environmental policy seems to be based around, and the single most important issue facing our environment today. So, why not focus extensive research on helping to understand and solve this problem?

It’s interesting to see environmental groups start to see the benefit of research time on these supercomputers. Treehugger.com published an article on the eve of SC’12 about NCAR’s Yellowstone supercomputer, which will dedicate a significant amount of research time to climate change. Our good friends at NICS are publishing research studying the effects of high-elevation climate change on wildlife, in one of my favorite places, Yellowstone National Park.

Besides, environmentalists should see the ancillary benefit of HPC, even if it’s not directly involved in climate research. HPC is providing research to make cars more fuel efficient, manufacturing more streamlined, and helping to increase power efficiency in many of the products we use. In fact, supercomputers themselves are getting more efficient, as seen by the Green500, awarding the HPC systems with the highest FLOPS per watt.

The future of climate change prediction and research will come from a supercomputer, making HPC an integral part of the environmental movement going forward. But how will HPC help us get from theory and hypothesis to concrete data? Many scientists argue that an exascale supercomputer could help us get there, making full climate modeling possible. An exascale supercomputer could also help prove out models and theories about how climate change is evolving over time.

So, what does the environmentalist of the future look like?

It could be a research scientist or software programmer, long hair, goatee or beard, someone who tie-dyes his collared work shirts and crunches code to effectively change the world. He camps out in cubicles, not trees. His keyboard is his platform. Software is his tree. No more Prius—HPC is now the greatest vehicle in his arsenal.


Comment and Share: Adaptive Computing customers are using their supercomputing environment to change the way we view the world. Using Moab technologies to keep energy consumption at a minimum while maintaining performance, we’re seeing greener supercomputers. In what other ways do you see HPC helping to further the environmental movement?

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