Jandangga 2023 Pawsey update

The green machine: climate modelling with supercomputers

Supercomputers are essential infrastructure, critical to allowing scientists to comprehend the mysteries of the universe. These scientists include the astronomers using supercomputers to process vasts amounts of data from areas such as Inyarrimanha Ilgari Bundara, the CSIRO Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory.

The need for High Performance Computing (HPC) in astronomy is clear – but our sector also has a role to play in driving Australia’s green energy transition, including climate science research.

In our ongoing quest for a sustainable future, advancements in climate science and computing power are transforming our understanding of climate change. On March 10, 2023, Minister Reece Whitby MLA announced a regional climate modelling project at the Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre. This project will deliver more detailed and reliable projections for local areas across Western Australia, which will be used to inform planning for infrastructure and climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture and conservation.

A dot painting by an Australian Aboriginal artist (Margaret Whitehurst) decorates the front of a cabinet that has the word SETONIX written across it.

Meet Setonix, Australia’s most powerful and energy-efficient supercomputer, housed at the Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre. Credit: Pawsey

This announcement brought several media outlets to the Centre, and allowed us to discuss how traditionally, climate projections were limited to a global scale, offering a broad view of our changing climate. However, by harnessing cutting-edge modelling techniques and powerful computing resources scientists are now able to produce regional climate projections that extend up to an impressive 75 years into the future.

Using Pawsey’s powerful new supercomputer Setonix, researchers will combine the long-term predictive power of global climate models with the resolution of regional models. These regional climate projections provide us with a deeper and more accurate understanding of how climate patterns may evolve in specific areas. By incorporating historical data, considering emissions scenarios, and simulating various climate variables, scientists can offer invaluable insights into what the future holds for our local communities, businesses, and ecosystems.

Why is this important?

Regional climate projections serve as powerful tools that help us identify vulnerable regions at risk of extreme weather events such as hurricanes, droughts, and heatwaves. Armed with this knowledge, communities can proactively prepare and adapt to ensure their safety and resilience.

Policymakers and urban planners also benefit greatly from these projections. By understanding how climate change may impact infrastructure, agriculture, water resources, and more, they can develop strategies to protect and bolster these vital systems. This enables us to build more sustainable cities and regions that can withstand the challenges of a changing climate.

Man points to a WA map that is on a huge projected screen behind him. To the right is a cameraman filming the presentation.

Dr. Jatin Kala from Murdoch University demonstrating how the high resolution models can help us understand how our climate may change and impact a specific region or community

Dr. Jatin Kala from Murdoch University demonstrating how the high resolution models can help us understand how our climate may change and impact a specific region or community. Credit: Pawsey

Collaboration lies at the heart of turning these projections into action. This project is part of the Climate Science Initiative (CSI) being led by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) in partnership with the New South Wales Government, Murdoch University through the NSW Department of Planning and Environment’s New South Wales and Australian Regional Climate Modelling Project (NARCliM 2.0) and the Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre.

By fostering partnerships such as these between scientists, policymakers, businesses, and communities, we can effectively communicate and translate these projections into meaningful strategies. Together, we can implement policies that promote sustainable practices, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create a more resilient future for all.

Aditi Subramanya, Marketing and Events Manager, Pawsey