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Supercomputers have names and NCAR’s new one is named Cheyenne

The US has new armament in the weather forecasting arms race. Its competitive selection process is over, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) has picked its next supercomputer. Named Cheyenne for the Native American tribe and the city in which the National Weather Supercomputing Center (NWSC) is located, the powerful new computer will be used to study climate change, seismic activity, air quality, wildfires, and other earth science issues.

Director of operations and services at NCAR’s Computational and Information Systems Lab, Anke Kamrath told Atmos News, “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 will replace Yellowstone, shown below, the NWSC’s prior computer that is no longer quite as super.  The visualizations in the video above were created using Yellowstone, and similar work will be done on Cheyenne. NCAR picked Yellowstone out back in 2011 and made it available for use in summer 2012. Since then, more than 2,200 researchers from over 300 federal labs and universities have used NWSC and Yellowstone for research.

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Yellowstone ran on Intel Sandy Bridge EP processors in an IBM iDataPlex system and was rated for 1.6 petaflops. Cheyenne will run on Intel Broadwell processors for a 5.34-petaflop rating – 5.34 quadrillion calculations a second. NCAR plans to integrate Cheyenne with the GLADE file system already in use.

“Cheyenne will be a key component of the research infrastructure of the United States through its provision of supercomputing specially tailored for the atmospheric, geospace, and related sciences.” NCAR direction James Hurrell said.  The new supercomputer will help improve predictions across a range of fronts, including decadal prediction (ten-year climate models) and 11-year solar cycle timing to determine its possible impacts on tech like GPS.

Cheyenne is set for installation this year, and will be ready for operation in 2017. David Hosansky, Head of Media Relations at NCAR told us, “Allocations on the supercomputer go through a national committee process.” Said process may not have begun for Cheyenne yet, so if you’re thinking NWSC might help your future research, keep an eye on the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research’s website.