climate change (15)
A new supercomputer, funded by the National Science Foundation and the state of Wyoming, will replace the climate modeling Yellowstone Supercomputer in Wyoming, in 2017. Pictured: A view of a street flooded with sea water at Mayangan village in Subang, Indonesia's West Java province, July 16, 2010. Reuters/Beawiharta

Since 2012, scientists have relied on the Yellowstone supercomputer in Wyoming — operated by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) — to accurately model and predict Earth’s climate. By next year, though, its place will be taken by a beastlier machine, named Cheyenne.

In a statement released Monday, the NCAR said Cheyenne, which will be installed later this year at the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center, will be over two-and-a-half times more powerful than Yellowstone. This, the center added, would allow scientists to achieve an unprecedented level of detail in climate-change predictions.

“We’re excited to bring more supercomputing power to the scientific community,” Anke Kamrath, director of operations and services at NCAR’s Computational and Information Systems Laboratory, said in the statement. “Whether it’s the threat of solar storms or a heightened risk in certain severe weather events, this new system will help lead to improved predictions and strengthen society’s resilience to potential disasters.”

Cheyenne, powered by an Intel Xeon processor, would be capable of 5.3 quadrillion calculations per second, making it 100,000 times faster than a typical home computer, and would have a staggering 313 terabytes of storage memory. Even with its increased power, it will be three times more energy efficient than its predecessor, the NCAR said.

In addition to allowing scientists to simulate highly complex climatic patterns, the new supercomputer would also help create high-resolution models of the sun’s radiation — which would help solar power utilities predict up to days in advance the amount of energy solar arrays will generate — and accurately forecast solar flares, which are streams of solar radiation that can endanger satellites and astronauts in orbit.

“Cheyenne will be a key component of the research infrastructure of the United States through its provision of supercomputing specifically tailored for the atmospheric, geospace, and related sciences,” NCAR Director James Hurrell said in the statement. “The capabilities of this new system will be central to the continued improvement of our ability to understand and predict changes in weather, climate, air quality, and space weather, as well as their impacts on people, ecosystems, and society.”