Watch-A Supercomputer’s Simulation Of A Devastating Tornado
At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, when Leigh Orf, an atmospheric scientist strives to unravel the mysteries of tornado formation, he needs something the way bigger than a laptop. Phenomena like the massive, supercell thunderstorms and his studies involved such vast amounts of data that only a supercomputer will do.
Leigh Orf wants to answer what he said is a key question in meteorology for the question of “why do some of these storms produce these devastating tornadoes.” To get the answer, he turned to the simulation. The result, which is mesmerising and is based on the conditions surrounding a very real, very powerful, and a long-lasting tornado that has struck Oklahoma on May 24, 2011. It was placed at the top of the Enhanced Fujita scale as an EF-5.
But here’s why Orf needed time on a supercomputer. His simulation that was done using the Blue Waters machine at the University of Illinois has involved modelling a three-dimensional block of space which measures roughly 75 miles long, 75 miles wide, and 12.4 miles tall. For the PC model, that space was in turn crushed down into an astounding 1,839,200,000 smaller chunks, where many of the cubes that measure about 100 feet on each side.
In each of the chunks of the space, the computer has simulated factors like wind speed and direction, humidity, temperature, barometric pressure, and precipitations like rain, snow, and hail.
Leigh Orf said that this type of work needs the world’s strongest computers just because the problem demands and added that there is no way around it. That boils down to the huge amount of three-dimensional space as the computer is simulating, and subdivided into those nearly 2 billion parts. “It is not necessarily that the weather is complex, it is that the feature is significant and it needs to be very highly resolved,” he added.
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The simulation required about three days of time on 20,000 cores of the supercomputer. Ultimately, the goal is to understand the formation of those powerful, deadly tornadoes better sometimes spawned by powerful thunderstorms, and Orf says their simulation is helping them do just that.
“For the very first time we have been able to peer into the inner workings of a supercell that produces a tornado, and we can see that process occur,” he says. “We have the full storm, and we can see everything going on inside of it. So just about everything is a discovery, right now, because no one has done this before, not at this scale.”