Climate Researchers Planning One-Petaflop Supercomputer

Plans are in the works have the world's fastest computer built in Colorado and use it to calculate global climate models down to the square mile, officials say

The $75 million computer would be owned by the National Center for Atmospheric Research and other partners.

"NCAR is laying the groundwork to create a computational equivalent of the Hubble telescope," according to an NCAR staff note obtained by the Rocky Mountain News. "Such a center would lead to greatly expanded scientific computing capability."

The supercomputer would be able to run at 1 petaflop, or 1,000 trillion computations per second. That would be three times faster than the current fastest supercomputer at the Livermore National Laboratory in California. That unit tests nuclear weapon technology.

Petaflop technology doesn't exist, though a handful of companies hope to have it in a couple of years.

The Colorado School of Mines is Golden is lobbying for the project along with the University of Colorado in Boulder and Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

"We have some great potential sites closer to the Denver metro area than CSU, maybe even CU," said John Trefny, the president at Mines. "A facility like this would have scientists from all over the world, and it's going to need proximity to hotels and an airport.

"But the most attractive common ground with NCAR is that the School of Mines is all about science and engineering, and two of our focus areas are energy and environment."

Mines recently submitted its proposal to Boulder-based NCAR and Trefny said a final decision may come this summer. NCAR officials declined to comment.