April 22, 2020 - by Simone Ulmer
Reliable, long-term weather forecasts have so far only been possible to a limited extent. But what if? In this video, Isidor Sepp from Val Müstair in Switzerland explains, during a snowshoe tour in front of the panorama of the Piz Daint mountain, how he would plan as a farmer and mountain guide if he knew already in spring what to expect in summer and autumn. He doubts, however, that precise weather forecasts for a particular day beyond one week will ever be possible.
Jonas Bhend, an expert in long-term forecasts at MeteoSwiss, and computational scientist Will Sawyer from CSCS explain how researchers are trying to get closer to the goal of more reliable forecasts.
Not only for such weather forecasts, but in almost all research areas, high-performance computers are essential for solving problems in science and technology today. They can handle complex calculations within a useful period of time and simulate hypothetical assumptions in order to reject or confirm them. This is, for example, providing enormous support for experimental researchers, who can carry out targeted experiments with the guidance of simulations. But above all, simulations are paramount for research areas where experiments to test hypotheses are not possible, such as in climate research or astronomy.
Thanks to the forward-looking and sophisticated technology of the CSCS flagship supercomputer, named after the mountain that Sepp calls home, "Piz Daint" has not only been calculating with extreme energy efficiency since its launch in 2013, but has also been one of the most powerful supercomputer operated in Europe ever since. In the meantime, however, newly developed technologies and software have emerged that offer even greater efficiency — and this continues to be a key interest for CSCS, alongside meeting the demands of researchers (see video). In the coming years, "Piz Daint" will therefore be replaced by newer, state-of-the-art technologies that are more powerful than ever yet still energy efficient. Under the leadership of its Director and ETH Professor Thomas Schulthess, the computer centre has been working intensively with industry experts to ensure that these requirements can be met with the successor to “Piz Daint”.