Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Supercomputers used to help predict future extreme climate changes in the US

RedOrbit: With the recent history of extreme droughts and super storms, many are wondering what the future holds for the climate of the eastern United States. New research from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has taken the guesswork out of it. The results of this study, published in a recent issue of Environmental Research Letters, show that the region will be hotter and wetter in the future.

The research team consisting of Joshua Fu, a civil and environmental engineering professor, and Yang Gao, a graduate research assistant created a “climate crystal ball,” a set of precise scales of cities that predict high-resolution climate changes almost 50 years into the future.

The researchers combined high-resolution topography, land use information and climate modeling using the power of UT’s Kraken and Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) Jaguar, now called the Titan, which is the fastest supercomputer in the world. They used dynamic downscaling – which allowed the researchers to develop climate scales as small as four square kilometers – to develop climate model results.

“Instead of studying regions, which is not useful when examining extreme weather, dynamical downscaling allows us to study small areas such as cities with a fine resolution,” said Fu, who is also a professor within the UT-ORNL Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education.

...The team found that heat waves would become more severe throughout the eastern portion of the country by comparing present climate to future predictions, with the Northeast and Midwest experiencing a greater increase in heat waves than the Southeast. The Southeast will almost equalize the temperatures between the future North and current South according to the model....

Heat shimmering from an air strip, USAF photo

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