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NASA Taps NCAR To Design Software Engine To Model Earth

This may look like satellite imagery of clouds, but it's a computer-generated forecast from the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF). Designed so researchers and daily weather forecasters can exchange know-how and make continual improvements, WRF is one of the applications slated to take advantage of the Earth System Modeling Framework.

Brighter colors in the image indicate higher levels of water in clouds, an indication of moisture that could help fuel storms. This "snapshot" from a 24-hour forecast for October 25, 2001 shows a system that spawned 21 tornadoes, plus hail and strong winds, as it whipped through the central United States.

Boulder - May 15, 2002
Scientists and engineers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) are leaders in a national collaboration to build a software framework that will take computer modeling of the Earth's weather and climate to the next level. The framework signals a new era of coordination and cooperation among nine of the nation's top modeling centers.

NASA has awarded NCAR and its collaborators $9.8 million for developing and deploying an Earth System Modeling Framework. NCAR will receive $3.8 million of the award for developing the core software for the framework.

The framework will allow some of the nation's most widely used computer models of the Earth's climate and weather to work together and permit vast amounts of data collected by observational instruments to be assimilated into the models. The result will be more realistic simulations of weather and climate, better use of real-world observational data, and, ultimately, more accurate predictions.

"The new software framework will help scientists and engineers develop and share the modern software components essential to accelerated progress in modeling the Earth's climate and weather systems," says NCAR director Tim Killeen, one of the three lead scientists of the interlinked framework-building effort. "We're delighted to have this opportunity to work closely with colleagues around the country."

Working with those colleagues, six software engineers at NCAR will spend the next three years building the core infrastructure, which will offer integrated tools for communication among components, time management, performance profiling, and other common functions.

"An application running on the framework will resemble a sandwich," says NCAR's Cecelia DeLuca, one of the partnership's three technical managers. The bottom slice of bread is the infrastructure, providing utilities and data structures that allow developers to build applications more easily.

The top slice is the superstructure—tools for coupling that allow model components to work together. The software written for specific modeling applications is the sandwich filling.

Says Killeen, "The effort brings together computational scientists, software engineers, and Earth scientists involved in weather and climate modeling and data assimilation to create a shared scientific tool that will provide a common infrastructure, or 'language,' for computer modeling. This unprecedented level of cooperation will make models simultaneously easier to develop and more powerful."

The Earth System Modeling Framework will handle all interconnections among atmosphere, land, ocean, and other models coupled to form larger environmental models. The framework will help improve the fidelity and predictive capability of the models by making it much simpler for researchers to compare alternative scientific approaches from many different sources.

"This is the first step in a progression that will enable the modeling community to use its resources more effectively and ultimately produce better science to serve the nation's needs," says DeLuca.

The grant to NCAR is part of a three-year, $22.8 million project for 11 teams to develop advanced scientific software frameworks for high-end computers. The Computational Technologies Project in NASA's Earth Science Technology Office is funding the project. NCAR's primary sponsor is the National Science Foundation.

Related Links
National Center for Atmospheric Research
Earth System Modeling Framework
New Parternerships Set to Reshape NASA Science Modeling
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In Midst of Drought, Scientists Hunt for Water Vapor
Boulder — May 10, 2002
Humidity doesn't guarantee rainfall, especially in a drought. Chasing a target that's not only moving but invisible, over 100 researchers will profile the water vapor that feeds heavy rain and thunderstorms across Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas as part of the large, complex International H20 Project (IHOP2002).