ECMWF and Atos launch Center of Excellence in Weather & Climate Modelling

5 October 2020
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Satellite and simulated satellite images

Visible Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) satellite image (left) next to a 48-hour global forecast with a grid spacing of 1.4 km and an explicit representation of deep convection, verifying at the same time (right). Simulations with this high level of detail will help to advance the understanding of the Earth's weather and climate. (Image courtesy of EUMETSAT/ECMWF)

A new Center of Excellence in HPC, AI and Quantum Computing for Weather & Climate will be opening, in partnership with information technology company Atos, at ECMWF’s headquarters. The Center of Excellence will provide their team of international researchers with access to emerging artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing technologies and expertise, and benefit from ECMWF’s high-performance computing (HPC) resources to be soon located in Bologna, Italy. The aim is to support ECMWF scientists in their work on medium- and long-range weather prediction, and global climate modelling.

Using the latest advances in technology, ECMWF researchers will be able to improve the ability to forecast the occurrence and intensity of extreme weather events and other new weather phenomena triggered by climate change. Equipped with Atos’ latest BullSequana supercomputer, the Center of Excellence will also be supported by Atos experts and technology partners who will collaborate directly with ECMWF research scientists in order to develop new techniques to support next-generation weather forecasting, help boost climate and weather discovery and innovation, and help prepare ECMWF for future HPC and data handling architectures.

Bringing together world-class experts in computing, computational science and Earth system science is key to continuing to advance our medium- and long-range weather forecasting. The Center builds on a previous successful collaboration with Atos and will play a significant role in helping us to improve and reliably predict the occurrence and intensity of extreme weather events and other events associated with climate change significantly ahead of time,” explained Dr Florence Rabier, Director General at ECMWF. “Technology will play a key role in supporting our experts in the field and enabling partners in our 34 Member and Co-operating States across Europe to continue to protect life and property in their countries.”

Pierre Barnabé, Senior Executive Vice-President, Head of Big Data & Cybersecurity at Atos added: We are thrilled to establish this Center of Excellence together with ECMWF, where researchers will be able to explore the different usages of HPC and AI through proof of concept production, as well as innovation workshops, courses and conferences. High-performance computing assisted by artificial intelligence holds huge potential for the climate and weather. It also introduces new methods and techniques that are only just becoming available.”

ECMWF is working to investigate and exploit state-of-the art technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, and to identify how they could be used to enhance weather and climate applications. As part of the new Center of Excellence, one of the initial projects will be to test and advance these approaches within the ECMWF software infrastructure. Machine learning solutions will be developed for applications across the numerical weather prediction workflow that are customized towards the needs of Earth system modelling.

A second initial project will look to develop a CPU-GPU-based version of ECMWF’s Integrated Forecasting System (IFS) and the wave model WAM, and to prepare the ECMWF product-generation pipeline and data-centric workflows for new technologies.

The team will develop their processes and test them on emerging hardware to explore impacts on performance. The ultimate aim is to prepare the ECMWF model code for extreme-scale and energy-efficient computing on heterogeneous architecture.

A third project aims to develop tools that build on the user experience of operational HPC systems.

The research will be powered by ECMWF’s new Atos BullSequana XH2000 supercomputer, one of the most powerful meteorological supercomputers in the world. The system is equipped with BullSequana X2415 blades, utilizing NVIDIA’s next-generation graphics processing unit architecture, the NVIDIA® A100 Tensor Core GPU, and is supported by Atos Codex AI Suite, the most comprehensive AI software suite on the market. This will provide advanced GPU computing and AI capability to enable ECMWF researchers to speed-up processing times on the most complex data, enabling them to gain insights faster, using the power of deep learning and analytics.

The Center of Excellence will also have access to Atos’ Quantum Learning Machine (QLM), the most advanced Quantum Computing Simulator available today, to explore how quantum computing may impact weather and climate prediction in the future. The Center will also be supported by expert staff from AMD, Mellanox, Nvidia and DDN, allowing it to explore accelerated computing techniques as well as issues related to storage and data access.

The Center of Excellence (CoE) in Advanced Computing, Weather & Climate is Atos’ second CoE dedicated to HPC, AI and quantum technologies focused on a scientific domain. The first was launched on 8 July, together with the Wellcome Genome Campus, Cambridgeshire, UK, and is focused on the life sciences. The Wellcome Genome Campus is also home to the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and EMBL-EBI.