WA enlists supercomputer
The WA Government is using a supercomputer nicknamed ‘Big Quokka’ to crunch climate change data.
Western Australia has enlisted high tech help to generate climate change projections for the next 75 years.
The giant 'Setonix' machine, housed at the Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre, can perform a calculation in one second that would take a human 1.5 billion years to achieve. Setonix is the scientific name for quokka.
Its computing power is equivalent to 150,000 laptops working in unison, and the machine is being upgraded to run at over 200,000 cores.
Under a new collaboration between the Western Australian Department of Water and Environmental Regulation's Climate Science Initiative, the New South Wales government, Murdoch University, and the Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre, the machine is tasked with producing detailed projections at a grid scale of four kilometres, initially for the state's South West, and at a grid scale of 20 kilometres for the North West.
The climate change projections are crucial for preparing for extreme weather events such as floods, bushfires, and cyclones, and for safeguarding Western Australia's unique biodiversity.
The Climate Science Initiative divides climate change into localised data feeds to produce more detailed projections.
As the WA government explains; “Global climate models divide the Earth into grid cells ranging from 100 to 250 kilometres. These cells are often too big to examine the impacts of climate change at local scales, where differing climate events may occur within the same grid”.
The Setonix supercomputer weighs 45 tonnes and runs on 12 kilometres of optical cable.
It is being used to provide “the most reliable and comprehensive climate change projections for Western Australia until the end of the century”, according to the Western Australian government.
The projections will assist in better protecting the state's unique biodiversity and support major investment decisions in energy infrastructure, planning, and regional development.
Although weather bureaus and the military typically have enough load to run their own rigs, supercomputers are generally rented to run workloads rather than owned by organisations because of their size, cost, and energy consumption.
However, the Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre's Setonix rig is so powerful that it is still being expanded, with room for more computing power after its current upgrade to over 200,000 cores.
Climate action minister Reece Whitby hailed the supercomputer as a significant acknowledgement of the state and the nation's investment in tackling climate change.