How Superfast Ethernet Can Help Tackle Climate Change

berkeley-lab-logoBlazing fast Ethernet holds a lot of potential for Department of Energy scientists — at least $62 million worth. That’s how much the agency has awarded to the Berkeley National Lab to develop a prototype Ethernet network connecting DOE supercomputers and transferring data at 100 gigabits per second, or 10 times faster than the existing network, insideHPC reports. Most of the funds, awarded to the Berkeley Lab’s ESnet team under the stimulus package, will end up going toward new equipment and infrastructure support services (read: boon for selected hardware vendors), but ultimately the project could help accelerate work around computing to fight climate change.

According to the Berkeley Lab, the amount of data emerging from climate research and being accessed by scientists is growing “exponentially.” The “next-generation archive” of climate modeling data is expected to reach 650 terabytes or more, up from the 35-terabyte archive now maintained by a program at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab and used by some 2,500 scientists. Long term, the ESnet team aims to build a network that can handle as much as 1 terabit (1,000 gigabits) of data per second.
Where’s this data coming from? Computer modeling can be used to study things like storm patterns over hundreds of years, helping to put today’s weather patterns and changes in a much broader context. That was the intent of researchers out of Pennsylvania State University who published a study this week finding that the North Atlantic Ocean has had more big storms over the last decade than any other time in the last 1,000 years.
In addition to analyzing physical evidence (layers of sediment, for example), the researchers fed into their computer model more than 150 years’ worth of information about “factors known to influence hurricane activity,” as ClimateWire explains, and then simulated 1,500 years of Atlantic storms. With projects like the one being funded at Berkeley, this kind of data crunching could move much faster, and in the meantime, provide broadband gear companies with a valuable customer and test bed for high-speed networking.