National Computational Infrastructure

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How NCI’s high-performance data is driving innovative climate change research


After sweltering through Australia’s warmest year to date, the National Computational Infrastructure’s petascale contribution to Earth System Science has never been more critical.

NCI’s resolution to sustain breakthrough research in climate change is largely embodied within the availability and accessibility of data contributing to the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5, otherwise known as the CMIP5 multi-model ensemble. This data collection, hosted on NCI’s high performance Lustre filesystem, provides researchers with the framework for decadal-scale coordinated climate modelling experiments, and is a vital key in helping scientists understand our complex and changing climate system.

Building on the foundation of previous projects, CMIP5 has provided climate science researchers with new multi-model contexts for:

  • Combining datasets to understand the past and present climate, and make projections about the future climate in Australia, our Pacific region, the Southern Ocean, and beyond in various future emissions scenarios, which contribute to the IPCC’s Assessment Reports
  • Assessing the mechanisms responsible for model differences in poorly understood feedbacks associated with the carbon cycle and with clouds and aerosols,
  • Examining climate predictability and exploring the ability of models to accurately project climatic behaviours on decadal time scales, and,
  • Investigating why similarly forced models produce a range of responses

NCI stands alongside the U.S. Department of Energy, NASA, NOAA, the National Science Foundation and the European Network for Earth System Modelling in providing global access to CMIP5 data through the Earth Systems Grid Federation, the gateway for researchers wanting to experiment with the CMIP5 data collection.

The ESGF node at NCI is instrumental in allowing Australian researchers to contribute their data to the global repository of climate experiments, as well as replicating internationally-generated data for Australian researchers to work locally on the NCI’s Lustre filesystem via Raijin  and Tenjjn cloud including NCI’s Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and the Climate & Weather Science Laboratory (CWSLab). During a recent prolonged outage of the ESGF international federation, NCI has continued to make Australian data available through NCI’s  NERDIP data services, which includes a geonetwork data catalogue, and OPeNDAP data service.

The accessibility of CMIP5 data at NCI has already led to remarkable conclusions in the field of Earth System Science. Associate Professor Nerilie Abram at The Australian National Univeristy’s Research School of Earth Sciences, and her colleagues, recently completed a body of work concerning industrial-era warming across the oceans and continents. Their studies were only made possible by utilising data hosted at NCI, including CMIP5 model output, and some non-CMIP5 simulations, a portion of which were performed on NCI’s supercomputer.

Recently, Associate Professor Abram and her team were recognised and published in acclaimed journal Nature. You can read more about it here.

With over five petabytes of climate and weather research data on site, NCI remains one of Australia’s leading institutions concerning Earth System Science. As further advancements in climate research come to the fore, such as CMIP6, NCI will require significant augmentation of its high-performance data capabilities. This infrastructure development would guarantee that domestic and international climate research can advance well into the future.

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