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Message from CISL Director Al Kellie

  Al Kellie, Associate Director of NCAR, CISL
  Al Kellie, CISL Director
  TeraGrid Annual Meeting
  NCAR TeraGrid Resource Provider Principal Investigator (RPPI) Dr. Richard Loft (right), describes NCAR's TeraGrid plans to NSF Director Dr. Arden Bement (center) and NSF Office of Cyberinfrastructure Director, Dr. Dan Atkins (left) at the first annual TeraGrid Conference in Indianopolis, shortly after Dr. Bement announced NCAR as the newest member of the TeraGrid Resource Provider community. See the detailed report.
  How ESMF can improve
modeling accuracy
  This image illustrates the improvement in predicted sea ice concentrations achieved at the Naval Research Laboratory by taking a standalone sea ice model and coupling it to an ocean model using the Earth System Modeling Framework (ESMF), then comparing the output of the standalone and coupled versions with observations. ESMF, a software package based at NCAR and supported and developed by a multi-agency collaboration, defines standard software interfaces so that models from different research and operational sites can be combined into a variety of integrated systems. The image demonstrates that integrated modeling systems created using ESMF are being used to explore aspects of the Earth system that have far-reaching and profound social consequences. See the detailed report.
  regional-scale cloud
  This satellite view of cumulus clouds rapidly developing into cumulonimbus formations indicates the importance of small-scale atmospheric phenomena. The reflective and convective qualities of the merging cumulonimbus formations make a significantly greater impact on the atmosphere than that of the cumulus clouds at the bottom of the photo. Techniques that allow long-term global models to resolve dynamic processes at this scale were explored at IMAGe's Theme of the Year workshops, and the methods now being developed are improving our ability to accurately simulate climate and weather. See the detailed report.
  Facility architecture
  The diagram shows a distributed network of domain-specific science and technology centers linked to a central research hub facility that will supply computing and data resources beyond the reach of the partner centers. We call this architecture the geoscience collaboratory. The proposed collaboratory will enable geo-specific HPC, data, and observation systems in the public and private sectors to collaborate more effectively on the most challenging problems in the geosciences. See the detailed report.
  Sustained teraflops within NCAR's production systems since 1999, including the estimated capacity during 2007-2011 from the ICESS procurement. As new systems become more powerful, CISL must develop methods for managing them to provide the most efficient computing resources to users. CISL will ensure that the two increases from the ICESS procurement will provide maximum benefit to meet the scientific mission of the organization. See the detailed report.

Welcome. I am proud to present the FY 2006 Annual Report of NCAR's Computational and Information System Laboratory (CISL). As you browse this report, I am sure you will conclude as I have that this has been a particularly busy and productive year for CISL. In particular, I'd like to call your attention to the following highlights:

  • CISL has led NCAR's Grid technology effort that resulted in NCAR officially joining the NSF TeraGrid project in June 2006, a significant step toward adding Grid technology to our HPC community service portfolio.

  • The Earth System Modeling Framework (ESMF) went into production at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) in August 2006.

  • CISL completed procurement of its next-generation supercomputing resource that promises to immediately more than double the computing capacity available to our users.

  • CISL's Institute for Mathematics Applied to Geosciences (IMAGe) organized four significant and highly successful workshops under the Theme of the Year: "Emerging Mathematical Strategies for Multi-Scale and Stochastic Modeling of the Atmosphere and Climate."

  • CISL organized two NSF-sponsored workshops designed to mobilize the geosciences in the area of cyberinfrastructure. The first, "Geoscience Application Requirements for Petascale Architectures" (GARPA), brought vendors and geoscientists together to discuss how to prepare their applications for petascale computing. The second, "High Performance Computing in the Geosciences," was an initial, community-building step toward realizing the concept of a Geoscience Collaboratory, a cyber-environment in which geoscientists can more effectively collaborate on their most challenging problems.

Improved Annual Report Design

This year's annual report is written in a condensed format designed to be easier to read and use. Only our most significant projects and programs are represented, and each is showcased with a brief overview report. Every report also displays a nugget of information consisting of an image with a caption that explains the importance of the work being shown. This new format provides readers with quick access to a broad spectrum of our work.

In addition, four highlight reports provide more detailed information about these important projects' purpose, timeframe, and accomplishments, along with project plan evaluation measures for the coming year. These metrics give readers the information needed to monitor our progress. Each detailed report concludes with a statement about the impact of the project on the community and society. For the interested reader or expert, we also offer the CISL Research Catalog, a repository for reports using a level of detail that our researchers feel is most descriptive and accurate.

Perhaps most notable, CISL's 2006 Annual Report features a new section entitled Discoveries. This section describes breakthroughs, new avenues of inquiry, and new findings that were not anticipated by the NCAR or CISL strategic plans. CISL reports on one breakthrough this year, a technique that will allow operational components of NCAR's flagship Community Climate System Model (CCSM) to be run on vastly larger numbers of processors at dramatically higher resolution with scientifically useful integration rates. Much work must still be done before the full promise of this discovery is realized, but this new approach appears to be a technically viable pathway toward efficiently utilizing the next generation of supercomputers.

CISL Advances NCAR's Strategic Priorities

CISL has primary responsibility for fulfilling NCAR's strategic goal to "Provide robust, accessible, and innovative information services and tools." The NCAR Strategic Plan names four strategic priorities under that goal, and CISL presents a highlight project for each of those priorities.

For NCAR's strategic priority of "Developing and providing advanced services and tools," we highlight CISL's efforts to integrate NCAR facilities and information resources with the TeraGrid. Our dedication to integration and collaboration across projects, scientific organizations, and technology is demonstrated by our expenditure of intellectual capital, funds, and human resources in joining the TeraGrid. CISL staff is leveraging existing efforts in developing Grid technologies and global, interoperable computing and data systems to support the success of the TeraGrid. We are fully engaged in and committed to applying our expertise to the success of the TeraGrid.

NCAR's strategic priority of "Creating an Earth system knowledge environment" is to continually develop new cyberinfrastructure that can be integrated into powerful, collaborative problem-solving environments that advance the community's ability to engage in research and scientific discovery and to construct complex workflows. The highlight project in this area is the Earth System Modeling Framework (ESMF). This project uses separate software components to represent physical domains and processes, then allows the construction of very complex models via interoperable code and standardized interfaces. It is a significant accomplishment to have ESMF in production at forecast center.

CISL has dramatically increased its programs specializing in computational science and numerical methods applied to modeling for the geosciences. In FY 2006, CISL had two research arms in these areas: SCD's Computational Sciences Section and IMAGe, the Institute for Mathematics Applied to Geosciences. IMAGe's series of four workshops based on the theme of multi-scale phenomena is this year's highlight addressing NCAR's strategic priority of "Conducting research in computer science, applied mathematics, statistics, and numerical methods." The multi-scale techniques being developed today will have great value in capturing with fidelity the physical systems that geoscientists study.

To support NCAR's priority of "Enhancing capability and capacity of NCAR supercomputing," We highlight CISL's leadership in work being done to organize the geoscience research community to take maximum advantage of NSF's cyberinfrastructure investments: in particular, the vision of a geoscience collaboratory.

Also supporting NCAR's strategic priority of "Enhancing capability and capacity of NCAR supercomputing" is the latest supercomputer procurement that will more than double the current computing capacity at NCAR in FY 2007. Over its lifetime through 2011, the equipment contracted under ICESS will advance the sustained capacity of NCAR computing from an estimated 1 TFLOPS in FY 2006 to more than 5 TFLOPS sustained in FY 2008. The modeling community is, of course, prepared to use that capacity as soon as it becomes available.

CISL also contributes to NCAR's education and outreach strategic goal of "Improving public awareness and understanding of our science." We highlight our education and outreach efforts in three areas: Visualization Lab Outreach Program, Training in Geoscientific Tools, and Conference Outreach. This work is covered in the fifth section of our annual report.

CISL provides a level of infrastructure support that is literally without peer anywhere in the country. Our ongoing goal is to provide a balanced computing environment that not only supports our traditional base of atmospheric sciences, but will also integrate with the larger geoscience community via distributed facilities such as the TeraGrid.

As we look to the future, we continually adapt ourselves and our organization to maximize our contribution to understanding the complexities of the Earth System. As you read this report, I hope you share our sense of excitement and expectation for significant progress in the future.

I invite you to review our accomplishments and plans in the FY 2006 CISL Annual Report.