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Earth Simulator Now Predicting Hurricanes? 167

Posted by simoniker
from the but-not-godzilla dept.
GeoGreg writes "The BBC is reporting that the Japanese Earth Simulator supercomputer is producing results showing that it is possible to model climate down to the level of severe weather events such as hurricanes. This computer has been discussed on Slashdot previously, and it sounds like at least some of the hype around this beastie was justified."
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Earth Simulator Now Predicting Hurricanes?

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  • Butterfly (Score:5, Funny)

    by tgrasl (607606) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @07:10AM (#7112156)
    Can It predict where to put the butterfly to stop them ?
  • Model (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CGP314 (672613) <CGP@ColinGregory ... net minus author> on Thursday October 02, 2003 @07:13AM (#7112163) Homepage
    the Japanese Earth Simulator supercomputer is producing results showing that it is possible to model climate down to the level of severe weather events

    Sure, you can model it, but how accurate is the model? I can model a cow as a sphere, but I haven't told you if that is appropriate for what I need.
    • Re:Model (Score:3, Funny)

      by kahei (466208)

      Next step: Breed spherical cow.

      • Next step: Breed spherical cow.

        Make sure it is of "Uniform Density" too...

        • Next step: Breed spherical cow.
          Make sure it is of "Uniform Density" too...


          Don't forget uniform conductance, resistivity, material strength... oh and it's completely frictionless in an atmosphere-less environment. Here's to a more uniform universe!
    • Re:Model (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Davak (526912) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @07:34AM (#7112219) Homepage
      In my belief, this is an excellent point. Being in a scientific field, I have a tendency...err...not to believe people doing research!

      This thing is easy enough to test. Plug in a the variables today... and see if it predicts the weather currently tomorrow, or the next big hurricane, or whatever. They haven't published this type of research yet... why not?

      Pretty graphics and powerful computers do not insure success.

      Show me the data.

      Davak
      • Re:Model (Score:4, Insightful)

        by snarkh (118018) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @07:56AM (#7112294)
        Being in a scientific field, you might have taken a minute to read the article, where it says that the computer is designed for climate not weather forecast. I.e., you might get an accurate estimate for the probability of a hurricane within a given month, but don't expect to find out the weather for tomorrow.
      • Re:Model (Score:2, Informative)

        by 91stst (610832)
        Meteorologist HAVE been doing this type of research for many years now. Here is the data you requested, the computed skill score of all current NCEP [noaa.gov] Operational weather models.

        NCEP Skill Scores [noaa.gov]

        If this doesn't convince you that much research is currently being done to improve weather prediciton, here is the fields most recent effort, the WRF model, a collaborative Operational/Research model.

        WRF Model [wrf-model.org]

        Keep in mind, the model can only resolve a solution near that of the actual resolution of the input d
      • Re:Model (Score:2, Insightful)

        by 2marcus (704338)
        Actually, what you want to do is take the best data you can find for "exogenous" variables over the last 100 years (solar cycle, volcanoes, anthropogenic emissions), and plug them into the model and compare the overall trends to reality (rather than trying to predict a "specific" hurricane, which is not what the model is designed for): One would expect that you can match global average temperature and sea level rise pretty well since current (100 km resolution) models already do so (see IPCC report). The
    • Re:Model (Score:4, Informative)

      by Glock27 (446276) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @09:48AM (#7112979)
      the Japanese Earth Simulator supercomputer is producing results showing that it is possible to model climate down to the level of severe weather events

      First of all, that is already happening with current weather models...those are the ones that predict hurricane paths and such. There were already predictions that this would be an unusually heavy hurricane season before it started - those were due to climate models that showed the ocean area responsible would be warmer than normal.

      Predicting where hurricanes will appear and where they will go ahead of time (that is without looking at the current weather patterns while it is happening) involves that pesky chaos thing and good luck with that.

      Perhaps what the person was trying to say is that this is the first time researchers have been able to run 10 km. (or 5, or 1) resolution models on a global scale all at once - and that is quite an achievement if so.

      BTW, the point of all this is not to predict individual hurricanes or tracks. It is primarily to identify long-term climate trends. From the article:

      "This means that we potentially have the capability to predict whether storms like Hurricane Isabel will be on the increase in future." - Professor Julia Slingo. (Hmmm, I guess she's from Soviet Russia;)

      • There were already predictions that this would be an unusually heavy hurricane season before it started - those were due to climate models that showed the ocean area responsible would be warmer than normal.

        But remember that the same models predicted a heavy hurricane season last year and it didn't happen. Weather predictions are still only a little better at this point than a man in a loincloth shaking a bone at the moon. It's not enough for them to predict right once. I want to see a good record of accu

  • Pish posh. (Score:5, Funny)

    by JanusFury (452699) <kevin.gadd@gmail.QUOTEcom minus punct> on Thursday October 02, 2003 @07:15AM (#7112169) Homepage Journal
    I'm still waiting for a supercomputer that can create hurricanes. Who cares about predicting them when you can't do anything to stop them? I envision a future where we stop hurricanes by throwing other hurricanes at them, and nations conduct large scale wars by throwing hurricanes at each other.
    • And more importantly, how soon after they are developed will villainsuply.com get one in stock? I'd find one very useful in The Plan...
    • I'm sure with a couple million cans of baked beans + the population on NY we could create a hurricain

      Rus
    • Here at RIT we have what we call the weather machine. Why is this?
      Almost every day we have a tour/orientation, the weather is great. You can plan picnics based on when these events are and you won't be disappointed. If anyone knows what the weather in Rochester, NY is like, they'll appreciate this.
    • If a single butterfly flapping its wings in the right place can start a hurricane (according to urban legend) surely all we need is to find that butterfly and model its brain. Butterfly brains are pretty small, a G5 dual processor Mac should be enough plus a few little electric motors to flap the butterfly wings.

      Oh, wait, it seems we need the supercomputer to work out where to put the butterfly.

      • Well, it's not really so much of an urban legend, as a way of explaining chaos theory (thanks Jurassic Park). The idea is that, no matter how accurate your initial data are, there will still be some round-off errors (basically) in your numbers. When you do a lot of calculations on these data, small differences in the initial data manifest themselves as large-scale phenomena down the road. Hence, a butterfly's position now determines whether or not a hurricane occurs three weeks later.

        • small differences in the initial data manifest themselves as large-scale phenomena down the road.

          A good point to emphasize when people are blindly clamoring for more computer power.

          Lyapunov exponents [mpipks-dresden.mpg.de] for portions of phase space for a nonlinear system will cause this divergence.

          So, yes, no matter how many bits of floating point mantissa you carry, or how precise your measure your initial conditions, exp(at) will inevitably grow if a > 0.

          And, just in case anyone's proud of their accurate code and pr

      • > If a single butterfly flapping its wings in the right place can start a hurricane (according to urban legend) surely all we need is to find that butterfly and model its brain.

        --Nonono, you have it all wrong - what we need to do is find that butterfly and NEUTRALIZE IT. *snap* "THAT for your blasted hurricane, Foolio!"
    • by Anonymous Coward
      This just in off the KookWire... [google.com]

      Hurricanes and Tornadoes (and also other socalled natural disasters) are man-made. All you need is a weather satellite and you'll whip up that tunnel to the strenght that you want it and you drive that thing to shore or through the country.

      Who would do such a thing? Is it Al Queda? No, but it is the same that runs secrely Al Queda and any other form of terror group, it is the SEGNPMSS, the still existing German Nazi Pyschiatrists Mindcontroller Secret Service.

      And if the

    • Yes, the first application of technology is often to wage war.

      Peacetime use of hurricane control might be to keep the hurricanes over the oceans, without disrupting the overall thermal equilibrium of the planet.

      Being able to measure and predict is the first step to being able to influence nature in planned ways.
    • Already available as Ouranos [commodore.ca] running on the Collosally Big Machine Model Personal Earth Terrorformer

      Well tornadoes only in this version, and their accuarcy was always a little off, but the source code is available.

  • 10km resolution (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CriX (628429) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @07:17AM (#7112172)
    Wow, I'm surprised that a resolution of 10 cubic kilometers is enough to actually make any predictions besides the most general of weather trends.

    Think of the variation between the state of air at sea level and then at the ceiling of a 10km cell... that's some severe approximation.
    • Re:10km resolution (Score:5, Interesting)

      by BRock97 (17460) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @08:02AM (#7112321) Homepage
      Wow, I'm surprised that a resolution of 10 cubic kilometers is enough to actually make any predictions besides the most general of weather trends.

      Define "the most general of weather trends". Currently, at least for here in the US, the model of choice (something always of debate) is the Eta [noaa.gov] that typically is run at 44km (they have much higher resolutions, but those aren't as readily available). Believe it or not, this model has been great at forecasting for frontal based weather (like thunderstorms along a cold front) and winter storm systems (it is able to place the areas of heavy snow by county) Depending on how close the model run is the the event, the placement of this information is usually pretty close.

      That isn't to say it is perfect. As you could imagine for a grid that size, the model will typically miss popcorn type showers and thunderstorms. Also, if you do any severe weather forecasting, you will miss the small scale features like a tornado or such.

      They have something called the RUC [noaa.gov] which is run at 20km. I am not as familiar with this model, but a person I work with has used it to do tornado forecasting (check out the historic data towards the bottom) [wxcaster.com] and has had incredible results.
    • Re:10km resolution (Score:4, Informative)

      by Katchina'404 (85738) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @08:10AM (#7112349) Homepage
      A cubic kilometer is the volume of a cube of 1km*1km*1km = 1km^3.

      Therefore 10 cubic kilometers is the volume of 10 such cubes. For example, a volume of 10km*1km*1km is 10 cubic kilometers.

      If you want a cube of 10 cubic kilometers, it would have a height (and width and depth, of course) of [cubic-root of 10]km, which is about 2.15km.

    • Re:10km resolution (Score:4, Informative)

      by imsabbel (611519) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @08:20AM (#7112389)
      actually, the 10km are not hight. A modern simulation uses 30-70 layers, spread across the 15-25km height they simulate
    • Re:10km resolution (Score:4, Insightful)

      by rfovell (226905) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @10:58AM (#7113545)
      Wow, I'm surprised that a resolution of 10 cubic kilometers is enough to actually make any predictions besides the most general of weather trends.

      Think of the variation between the state of air at sea level and then at the ceiling of a 10km cell... that's some severe approximation.


      It would be a horrifically bad approximation, yes, but you cannot compare horizontal resolutions and scales with vertical ones. The temperature variation over the lowest 10 km is about 70C (130F). At that height, pressure and density are both about 20% of their sea level values. You'll never find that kind of variation in the horizontal over any distance, never mind adjacent 10 km grid squares.

      There is much that cannot be resolved at 10 km, but at this point in time 10 km horizontal resolution on a global scale is fantastic.
  • by lingqi (577227) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @07:18AM (#7112175) Journal
    Saw a TV program on it a while back; they showed research on researchers using EarthSim to see shockwave propogation if a large earthquake was to occur in Kanto, or more specifically within a short distance to Tokyo (which is probably the biggest worry to the entire Japanese seismelogical and to a lesser extent meterological bodies).

    The conclusion was basically that Japan would be f***'ed if such was to happen, but that's rant for another day.

    So, earthsimulator simulates a lot of things. I am surprised that they don't model nuclear blasts on them, because it certainly CAN. Or at least we just don't know about it.

    One thing is for sure, though - I will attest that NEC definitely made a bundle over this =)

    btw, for ppl who are in japan, you can schedule tours to the place. I havn't tried yet, but in case anyone is interested... (now that I think about it, wasn't there a story about this a while back?) but here is a link just for fun: visitor information [jamstec.go.jp].

    and if you are brave enough for the same page in japanese, click here [jamstec.go.jp]. (The japanese page has a japanese map, which shows station names in kanji. I always found kanji station names to be more help, but that might be just me...

    • by Raveolution (614310) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @07:42AM (#7112248)
      Take a look to the authorized projects list for 2003 Here [jamstec.go.jp].
      • Thanks for the link. I'd mod you up if I had points.

        Did you see this one? 13. Global elastic response simulation. Uh, so they're going to see how high the Earth bounces if dropped from a 10-story window? ;-)

        • no no no, they are trying to answer the question of what happened if all the chinese ppl jumped all at once.
          • what happened if all the chinese ppl jumped all at once

            ok. i have no life: but here is a quick calculation:

            1.2billion people

            avg 70kg

            jump 20cm

            E = gmh = 9.81 m/s^2 * 0.2 m * 70 kg * 1.2E9
            = 164.81GJ

            This is compared to a megaton yield, which is
            2,977,789,639,020,840Joules (i.e. 2977.8GJ).

            In another words, the said scenario would cause an energy roughly equivalent of about 55 kilotons spreadout through China; as a comparison, LittleBoy was like 13.4 kilotons.

            So, I guess if they brought everybody to

    • by blibbleblobble (526872) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @07:54AM (#7112282)
      "I am surprised that they don't model nuclear blasts on them, because it certainly CAN."

      The one in Los Alamos does that, while the Japanese one predicts weather. It's something of a common joke that the japanese are using world's fastest supercomputer to improve the environment, while the americans are using the world's second-fastest supercomputer to design bigger nuclear weapons.
      • The one in Los Alamos does that, while the Japanese one predicts weather.

        Well they both do a good bit more than that... the project list for the Japanese one is really quite nifty (and I'm sure I could find an equivalent list for Los Alamos if I was sufficiently interested), and includes non-weather related research as well. Including nuclear energy research (not weapons related, but medical/energy/manufacturing).

        As for Los Alamos -- the primary reason isn't to build bigger weapons, but to ensure that th
      • It's something of a common joke that the japanese are using world's fastest supercomputer to improve the environment, while the americans are using the world's second-fastest supercomputer to design bigger nuclear weapons.

        Yeah, but what the jokers don't tell you is that on nights and weekends, the Japanese supercomputer is used to model giant fighting robots piloted by school children, one of whom is only doing it because his dad runs the project.

        It's quite chilling when you consider that it's well known
    • IIRC they can't do the weapon research because they lost WWII :)
    • they showed research on researchers using EarthSim to see shockwave propogation

      To be slightly pedantic, earthquake waves are not shock waves. They are perfectly ordinary elastic waves. A shock is produced by a body moving through a medium faster than the speed of sound in that medium (e.g., a sonic boom). That doesn't mean that one couldn't be shocked by earthquakes, though ;)

  • Remember this article [slashdot.org]? Yeah, I know, completely different technologies, but it seems like after decades of mediocre weather forecasting the technology is suddenly jumping forward all at once.
  • Output (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mmmjstone (456174)
    I wonder if the system releases only one pattern that the weather will follow or if it returns many different ways that the weather could go. From what I've heard previously about hurricanes, they have the tendancy to change paths when they feel like it - would the machine give more than just one pattern that the hurricane could take or do you think that it gives what it has discovered is the best answer?
    • Re:Output (Score:5, Informative)

      by girouette (309616) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @07:40AM (#7112242)
      Each run of the model only offers one solution (called a deterministic forecast).

      There is a technique called ensemble forecasting, whereby you run multiple instances of the model with slightly disturbed initial conditions and/or slightly tweaked model parameters. You can then examine the statistics of the ensemble to try and obtain information a deterministic forecast might not be able to give you.

      Note that the goal in this particular case is not hurricane forecasting as such. The newsworthy information is that this is the first time that a climate model can be run at a resolution high enough that hurricanes become possible within the simulation. Short term models used for the daily weather forecast do this reasonably well already.
      • Here's how ensemble forecasting works for horse racing. You find a track that's running at least 4 races per day, two weekend days in a row (Fri and Sat, for example, though it varies.) You then print up cards that forecast every single combination of the 8 horses. 8^4 is what, about 3600. Then, stand near the horse track, and hand out your cards, one for every tenth person who enters, no more. At the bottom, it says "to get our predictions for tomorrows' races, call xxx-xxxx."

        Of course, those predic

        • The distributed climate project is not trying to find that one card that happens to predict the winner. Rather, they are perturbing the input parameters to see how they affect the outcome. They want to see the distribution of results one gets with varying inputs. Each model they run is perfectly deterministic. But, since uncertainty in the input values is inescapable, it will be good to know how changing these values affects the output. These sorts of Monte Carlo simulations are perfectly acceptable as
      • This is a good way to do extended-range forecasts.

        Suppose you run an ensemble and discover that a tiny change in inputs causes a big change in outputs. Then you know that you're on a cusp, and the uncertainties in your input data will probably make your forecast diverge from the actual weather.

        Other times you'll discover that all the outputs are pretty similar. Then you know that you're in a stable and predictable part of the state space. Then you can publish an extreme long range forecast without worryi
    • Re:Output (Score:4, Interesting)

      by BRock97 (17460) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @07:45AM (#7112260) Homepage
      I wonder if the system releases only one pattern that the weather will follow or if it returns many different ways that the weather could go.

      I would hope so. The National Center for Environmental Predictions (NCEP [noaa.gov]) does this now with their model called the Global Forecast System (GFS [noaa.gov]) that goes out to 384 hours or 16 days. With this model, they do something called ensemble forecasts where they rerun the model another ten times at a reduced resolution from the master run with perturbations added to each. Then they compare the results and will, on some of the graphics, use all ten to perform a type of averaging to remove the really bogus forecasts.

      My experience has been if you are doing any type of long range forecasting, the ensemble method is the way to go. I am not saying that it is exact, but has proven an invaluable guide past day 4 for good long range forecasting. My guess is that this project in Japan would be taking this into account and performing something like this type of ensemble method. If not, I would seriously question their results.
  • But can it.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by stewwy (687854)
    Model the destruction to the USA east coast that WILL happen when a large chunk of the Canaries falls into the sea, ( estimated to be sometime in the next few centuries ) now if the EU really wanted to 'influence' US policy a few studies like these, plus a bit of mining might do it ..... conspiracy theorists take note!
    • The "Canary scenario" is not universally accepted by workers in the field of tsunami hazards. Both the likelihood of such a mass wasting event occuring as well as the modeling of what would happen if it did have been called into question [sthjournal.org].
  • Distributed project (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LarsWestergren (9033) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @07:35AM (#7112224) Homepage Journal
    As mentioned before, there is a distributed project called climateprediction.net [climateprediction.net]
    for those who want to participate themselves. It is run by the University of Oxford in the UK, it is not affiliated with . So far only a windows client, but a Linux one is in the works. It is very CPU intensive, so if you have less than an 800mhz processor you shouldn't bother, it would take months to finish a single unit of work.

    Hey, do you find it suprising that the nation that knows the least about climate science [smirkingchimp.com] is the one that is most skeptical about global warming?

    "In little more than a decade, the United States has fallen significantly behind other countries in its ability to simulate and predict long-term shifts in climate, according to a wide range of scientists and recent federal studies."
    "During the Clinton administration, the lack of American modeling leadership did not have a discernible impact on climate policy, various experts said. But it did prevent the United States from playing a more central role in writing critical sections of the Intergovernmental Panel's report -- particularly the part assessing the extent of human influence on the warming trend of recent decades.

    In computing power, Dr. Sarachik said, "our top two centers together don't amount to one-fifth of the European effort."


    In that article from the New York Times is from two years ago! It mentions the japanese plans to build the Earth Simulator.
    • In little more than a decade, the United States has fallen significantly behind other countries in its ability to simulate and predict long-term shifts in climate

      So in "little more than a decade" we've fallen behind someone in ways that can only really be proven by data from a longitudinal study over many years? I'm not sure how we can be sure of that; we'd need more than a decade to compare long-term predictions to the results, right?

      (I "get" where you're going, and it's an interesting point: Is our la

      • (I "get" where you're going, and it's an interesting point: Is our largely politicized skepticism about global warming change preventing us from investing in climate research? Basically I'm in sympathy with that question being asked, at least. But the data's still out on the actual results, isn't it?)

        I get happily surprised every time on Slashdot when someone makes a polite and well reasoned argument. Thank you!

        Well, perhaps the data might not convince everyone that the politics are in the way of science
  • by Anonymous Coward
    include itself in the model?

    Surely the heat generated by the system will disrupt the real world much more than the butterfly which'll make the model useless unless it includes itself in the model.

    Heh circular reasoning until you disappear up your own fundament!
  • by tonywestonuk (261622) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @07:36AM (#7112230)
    I think it should be noted that the article says they can only predict the likelyhood of hurricains occuring, rather than actual individual instances of hurricains as that title of this story implys..... We wont be able to fast forward the model, and predict a hurricaine years before it comes along for instance.... (Somthing to do with Chaos theory ends all hope of this ever happening..... You'd have to predict a leaf falling someplace else first!).
    • You are right, the forecasting of individual hurricanes or storms is completely besides the point of a climate model.

      The application here is in the area of climate forecasting, attempting to forecast trends in upcoming decades. It's not even important whether the model gets individual storms right, as long as the averages are realistic.

      The advance is in becoming able to incorporate hurricanes in the simulation. This should help improve the realism of those trends and averages.
      • Exactly, perhaps it will also uncover something I've been wondering about

        As the earth's climate and oceans heat up is the occurrence of large storms going to increase and / or their strength increase?

        As sort of way to scrub off excess heat.

  • Neat Trick But... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Shihar (153932) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @07:41AM (#7112244)
    While it is nice to know the computing power is out there, people need to realize that the prediction is only as good as the software the scientist. There are a lot of things that go into the weather. I question if we have caputred data on enough of them to really start making such long term predictions. I am curious if they have actually been able to modle past weather based upon the data they would have had avalable. Predicting the weather for what happened a year ago would be a neat trick, but only if you don't cheat and use more data then what would have been avalable if one had done it for real.
    • With the intense competition and peer review in the field of weather and climate forecasting, model validation and comparison is a constant concern. I also happen to know researchers in the field who would go to great lengths to validate their results anyway, because they take pride in doing their work well and they want to get to the truth.

      In the case of a model used for the daily forecast, there are archives and canned cases that can be used for comparison.

      In the case of a climate model, you are inter
  • Act of God? (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by Phigrin (645909)
    Well now that we might be predicting when and where hurricanes will occur, do you think it may convince religious zealots that hurricanes are just part of life? Or do we have to make peace that some people still think an eclipse is the work of the supernatural and that some of us always like to read our horoscopes?
    • Re:Act of God? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bhima (46039)
      Given that they accept these things on faith. I expect that another solution for their need to rationalize the beliefs will show itself.

      Don't frustrate yourself! Don't worry about these folks!

      Probably off topic but my daughter recently learned about how hurricanes form, and what powers them in school and was quite fascinated. My point is that the truth about our natural surroundings can be as interesting to those recently exposed to it (But I suppose it requires an open mind) as the fantasies concocted b

    • Re:Act of God? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Rostin (691447)
      This comment is akinned to those that people make who are convinced that Science (tm) has somehow disproven the existence of God, simply because we now have a better understanding of the physical mechanisms for certain phenomena that used to be explained by divine activity (a popular example is Zeus casting down lightning bolts). Whether or not individual lightning "bolts" (or hurricanes) have some divine purpose is not a question that we can answer by understanding atmospheric science. In a rough paralle
  • by Molina the Bofh (99621) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @07:45AM (#7112259) Homepage
    Eventually this supercomputer will be able to model climate down to the level of 42.
  • by rgoer (521471) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @07:46AM (#7112262)
    I had no idea how much more powerful NEC's EarthSim was than the the "next best thing" was, as far as supercomputers go, but check Top500.org's current list [top500.org] (to be updated in November) out: NEC ES runs, at max, almost three times (!) the G-flops as the next runner-up. I always figured the supercomputer races would be like Cedar Pointe and their roller coasters... you know, somebody builds a bigger or faster one, so you build another that edges them out by just enough to reclaim the title. I had no idea NEC decided to take the "largest computational genitals, period" crown with such authority.
    • The NEC EarthSimulator has been top of the Top500 list since the June 2002 edition. The main reason for its maintained top ranking is that it is a highly specialised, purpose-built machine. As far as I am aware, all the other listed machines come off a production line or are built from off-the-shelf, commodity parts. That's not to suggest one couldn't buy an EathSim off NEC if you made a suitable offer :-) If my memory serves me, a similar, highly specialised machine, the Japanese 'Numerical Wind Tunnel',
      • but the differences are bluring. The earth simulater uses vector processors, but NEC produces even workstations with that cpu. Thats not too different from the other clusters. Even if itanium,opteron and alpha may me "of the shelf" cpus, a rack with >myrinet connectivity or even switched HT links isnt very different from a "highly specialied, pupose.build machine"
    • Keep in mind the top500 list is built by volountary submissions to the archive. That means - there is a not insubstantial number of computers that "should" be in the top 500 (and top 5 for that matter) but aren't because of either a) the researchers who bought the system are just itching to use their very expensive machine for research and just bypass running the benchmark to get right down to business b) the agency/company using the machine desires to maintain a low profile.

      Also - keep in mind that linpa
  • "They show that, for the first time, our climate models can be run at resolutions capable of ...

    I have always heard that the flapping of a butterfly here can cause a storm in China ....

    Just wondering whether someday the resolution will be so good that out of the millions of butterflies flapping, they will be able to track down that culprit whose flapping caused the storm in china ...

    because if they can do it, you won't find me posting to slashdot, but on the run trying to kill that damn butterfly before I am blamed for it all ... The TIA and CAPPS goons shoot horses, don't they ... or is it people that they shoot ...

  • but rather
    "This means that we potentially have the capability to predict whether storms like Hurricane Isabel will be on the increase in future."
    Just a trending or probability, not "a Cat 5 hurricane will form at this lat/lon and go here". Good start though, and we'll get there someday.
  • by Brian Blessed (258910) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @08:17AM (#7112380)
    The article contains a photo of a train with the caption: Fewer tracks may buckle in heatwaves

    The recent track buckling problem in the UK was caused by the use of cheap lightweight tracks (which is why our European neighbours were unaffected). I have to wonder though how the author of this article reaches the conclusion that simulating climate models will actually lead to less track buckling. It was already known that the tracks would buckle occaisionally, but those in charge of the railways planned for drivers to slow down and try to see buckled lines ahead (as if derailing at 60mph is acceptable!).
  • by Anonymous Coward
    SimEarth.

    Lucky Bastards.
  • BUT... Can it model potential intensity? NOAA and NWS have been able (as proven by Isabel) to give 5 day advance warning of where the storms are actually going to hit. No, it is not dumb luck. The trick is to figure out how strong the storm is going to be upon landfall, which allows goverments, NGOs and the general population to make proper decisions with regard to evacuation and appropriate response. They can't do this yet.
  • by Pedrito (94783) on Thursday October 02, 2003 @08:57AM (#7112614) Homepage
    I live in Southern Mexico on the coast. About 5 years ago Hurrican Mitch, a category 5 hurricane, was sitting out at sea not too far away. For nearly a week it hardly moved, just hanging out in the middle of the ocean building up strength. The whole time, the NOAA/NHC was predicting it would hit us dead on in 3 days. Yet the hurricane just stayed there.

    Suddenly, the hurricane turned south and hit Honduras. Where it again stalled and hung out for 3 days. In the end, about 11,000 Hondurans died, primarily from massive mudslides that consumed enitre villages.

    I really hope they improve the models significantly so that things like this don't have to happen. If hurricanes could be predicted with more accuracy, to the point that people and countries could trust the predictions, these areas could be evacuated.

    Unfortunately, with the level of accuracy, there's such a wide area in the predicted path that it's impossible to evacuate everyone that could potentially be in the path in time to save them.

    When I first moved down here, I though, "Gee, I'd like to see what a hurricane is like." Then Mitch showed up. When you have a category 5 hurricane on your doorstep, you start to re-evaluate your life a bit. The town I live in would have been leveled. I would have been one of the lucky ones. I had a car and would have simply driven inland to avoid it. A lot of people couldn't have afforded to do that.

    With more accurate predictions, the government could sponsor the evacuations and save a lot of lives.

The one day you'd sell your soul for something, souls are a glut.

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