A new Earth modeling system will support weather-scale resolution and use advanced computers to simulate aspects of Earth’s variability and anticipate decade interval changes that will impact the U.S. energy sector. After four years of development, the Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM) is being released to the broader scientific community. The release will include model code and documentation, as well as output from an initial set of benchmark simulations.

Critical factors to be simulated include regional air/water temperatures, which can strain energy grids; water This simulation represents how sea surface temperature changes evolve as a hurricane (seen here approaching the U.S. East Coast) moves across the Atlantic and how the resultant cold wake affects subsequent intensification of the next hurricane. Source: Lawrence Livermore National LaboratoryThis simulation represents how sea surface temperature changes evolve as a hurricane (seen here approaching the U.S. East Coast) moves across the Atlantic and how the resultant cold wake affects subsequent intensification of the next hurricane. Source: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratoryavailability, which affects power plant operations; extreme water-cycle events, which impact infrastructure and bio-energy; and sea-level rise and coastal flooding, which threaten coastal infrastructure.

Simulating atmospheric and oceanic fluid dynamics with fine spatial resolution is especially challenging for Earth system models. Meeting project goals will require advances in resolving Earth system processes through a strategic combination of developing new processes in the model, increased model resolution and enhanced computational performance. Increasing the number of Earth system days simulated per day of computing time is also a prerequisite for achieving the E3SM project goal.

A long-term target is to develop and use exascale machines. An exascale refers to a computing system capable of carrying out a billion (1018) calculations per second. This represents a thousand-fold increase in performance over that of the most advanced computers from a decade ago.

The E3SM project includes more than 100 scientists and software engineers at multiple U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) laboratories as well as several universities. The DOE laboratories include Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Livermore, Lawrence Berkeley, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Pacific Northwest and Sandia National Laboratories. In recognition of unifying the DOE Earth system modeling community to perform high-resolution coupled simulations, the E3SM executive committee was awarded the Secretary of Energy's Achievement Award in 2015.

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