Water-Cooled Supercomputer Set to Study Climate IBM has designed a supercomputer that is water-cooled. It's the first one in the United States, and it is destined for scientists working on models of how climate is likely to change regional weather patterns — one of the most demanding problems in the climate science world.
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Water-Cooled Supercomputer Set to Study Climate

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Water-Cooled Supercomputer Set to Study Climate

Water-Cooled Supercomputer Set to Study Climate

Water-Cooled Supercomputer Set to Study Climate

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IBM has designed a supercomputer that is water-cooled. It's the first one in the United States, and it is destined for scientists working on models of how climate is likely to change regional weather patterns — one of the most demanding problems in the climate science world.

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

NPR's Christopher Joyce has more.

CHRISTOPHER JOYCE: IBM's David Turek, whose title is vice president for deep computing, explains that keeping a supercomputer cool means it can operate faster.

MONTAGNE: As people have built faster and faster microprocessors, one of the byproducts has been the emission of a tremendous amount of heat, which in turn requires a tremendous amount of cooling, which all comes down to how many dollars you want to spend to run your computer at the end of the day.

JOYCE: What IBM did was cool Bluefire with water instead of air from fans like most computers.

MONTAGNE: You do that by creating kind of a heat sink on top of the microprocessor, a piece of metal that takes the heat away from the chip. And then that heat in turn is cooled by the passage of water nearby that metal.

JOYCE: Bluefire is going to the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. Climate scientist Lawrence Buja at the center says existing supercomputers can give only rough estimations of how climate is going to change. For example, how a whole continent or ocean might be affected. The new machine should be able to tackle more specific questions.

MONTAGNE: Food supply is a major concern for society. So we can look at this - use this new computer to see how the future climate change is likely to affect specific crops, growing seasons. When are the heat waves going to occur? Does that come on at the same time as critical pollination periods? What is the changes in the water supply?

JOYCE: Buja says the computer may also be used to figure out ways to adapt to climate change.

MONTAGNE: In Peru, there's five high-altitude glaciers that have been there for thousands of years. And under these projections some of these are going to zero and we're going to have to figure out how to stand up replacement water and power that comes from these glaciers.

JOYCE: Christopher Joyce, NPR News.

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