[Illinois] CSE 2013: Modeling the Earth's Climate System From Petascale to Exascale

By Donald Wuebbles

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Scientific evidence strongly indicates that human activities are playing a significant role in bringing about major changes in our climate system, particularly in the last five decades. Significant changes in climate as a result of these human activities are projected for the rest of the 21st Century and beyond. The scientific analyses also strongly indicate that the globally-averaged temperature charges are being largely driven by changing atmospheric concentration of radiatively important gases and particles, lending credence to concerns about much larger changes in temperature, precipitation, and for changing probability in the likelihood for severe weather events over the coming decades. Numerical models of the physics, chemistry, and biology affecting the Earth-atmosphere climate system are key tools to both understanding the past changes in climate and to making the projections for the future that are necessary for planning and policy purposes. Today, even as we prepare to run these complex models of the Earth's climate system on petascale machines, we realize that despite the extensive capabilities that petascale will enable, a number of critical limitations in modeling the climate system require an exascale capability. The purpose of this presentation is to discuss the science underlying the concerns about climate change, the models of the Earth's climate system used in studying climate change, and the challenges being faced in taking these models to petascale and exascale. The NCAR Community Earth System Model (CESM), the most cited and used climate model in the world, will be the basis for the discussion on climate modeling capabilities now and into the future.


Donald Wuebbles, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Illinois

Donald J. Wuebbles is the Harry E. Preble Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Illinois. He is a professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences as well as an affiliate professor in the Departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering and in Electrical and Computer Engineering. He was the first Director of the School of Earth, Society, and Environment at Illinois, was the first Director of the Environmental Council at the University, and was Head of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences for many years. Dr. Wuebbles is an expert in numerical modeling of atmospheric physics and chemistry. He has authored over 400 scientific articles, relating mostly to atmospheric chemistry and climate issues. He has been a lead author on a number of national and international assessments related to concerns about climate change. He has also been a lead author on national and international assessments relating to atmospheric chemistry and the effects of human activities on stratospheric and tropospheric ozone. Dr. Wuebbles and colleagues received the 2005 Stratospheric Ozone Protection Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He has been honored by being selected a Fellow of three major professional science societies, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Meteorological Society. He is the Chair of the Global Environmental Change Focus Group for the American Geophysical Union. He shares in the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the international Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He was a member of a federal advisory committee that assessed and in 2009 published a report on the potential impacts of climate change on the United States. Professor Wuebbles is a Coordinating Lead Author for the next major international IPCC assessment of climate change that will be published in 2013 and is a leader in the next U.S. National Climate Assessment, being a member of the Executive Secretariat and the Federal Advisory Committee. Don and his wife, Barbara, have been married for 42 years and have three sons and two grandsons. Don grew up on a farm near Carlyle, Illinois. He has two degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois and a Ph.D. in Atmospheric Sciences from the University of California, Davis.

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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Donald Wuebbles (2013), "[Illinois] CSE 2013: Modeling the Earth's Climate System From Petascale to Exascale," http://nanohub.org/resources/18167.

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