OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Oak Ridge National Laboratory has announced its launching of a new supercomputer with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration in an ongoing partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy to track climate modeling. The machine has been assembled after supply chain delays and tested by several experts here in East Tennessee.

ORNL announced the supercomputer last week, saying the machine – referred to as “C5” is dedicated to climate science research. It is the fifth supercomputer to be installed and run by the National Climate-Computing Research Center or NCRC at ORNL. The C5 HPE Cray supercomputer can make more than 10 petaflops or 10 million billion calculations per second.

According to ORNL, the NCRC was established in 2009 as part of a strategic partnership between NOAA and the U.S. Department of Energy and is responsible for the procurement, installation, testing and operation of several supercomputers dedicated to climate modeling and simulations. ORNL says the goal of the partnership is to increase NOAA’s climate modeling capabilities in order to further critical climate research. In fact, the NCRC has installed a series of “increasingly powerful computers” since 2010, each of them formally named “Gaea.” 

“The power efficiency, cooling efficiency, and CPU power all increase significantly over time. We can replace all of the computational power of C3 with a single cabinet of C5, which has eight cabinets total,” Paul Peltz, the ORNL technical lead for Gaea, said in an ORNL news release.

C5 joins two other NOAA computers currently operating at ORNL. Supply chain issues delayed C5’s installation since its original arrival had been scheduled for fall 2021. The hardware later arrived and C5 was assembled last summer.

The ORNL team who installed and tested the newest Gaea system included, from left to right, Benny Sparks, Tori Robinson, Chris Coffman, Verónica Melesse Vergara, Nick Hagerty, Paul Peltz, A.J. Ruckman and Chris Fuson. (Photo Credit: Genevieve Martin/ORNL)

During this process, a team of engineers and programmers based here in East Tennessee began assembling and testing C5’s systems. This work was led by Verónica Melesse Vergara, group leader for the System Acceptance and User Environment group. Working with Vergara were ORNL staff members Tom Papatheodore, Dan Dietz and Nick Hagerty.

“Finding problems and fixing them before we open the system to users is rewarding,” Melesse Vergara said. “If we did our jobs correctly, then users will be able to run without major challenges; so often they are unaware of the bugs that were fixed before they had access.”

ORNL says when the C5 Gaea goes into full production and is open to NOAA users, the ORNL team will take a step back and focus on system maintenance while preparations for the next system begin.

“ORNL is a custodian of the machine for NOAA,” said Peltz. “We provide strong HPC (high-performance computing) knowledge and top-class facilities, and we invest heavily in our ability to house these machines in a secure manner. Those are things that NOAA doesn’t have to worry about. This interoperability between agencies is great.”