The University of Alaska Fairbanks and Mellanox’s HPC Take on Earthquakes

Our Interconnected Planet, Uncategorized

Dr. Carl Tape is an associate professor of geophysics at UAF at the Geophysical Institute and the Department of Geosciences. He is conducting research on seismic tomography and seismic wave propagation. Seismic tomography is a technique for imaging the subsurface of the Earth with seismic waves produced by earthquakes or explosions. Seismic waves travel through the Earth’s layers, and originate from earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, magma movement, large landslides or large man-made explosions that give out low-frequency acoustic energy. Dr. Tape is leading research efforts in Alaska with the goal of developing a 3D model of the subsurface crust and upper mantle.

This might not seem like something the average person might be interested in but consider Alaska is one of the most seismically active regions in the world and by far the biggest earthquake producer in the United States, with an average of six magnitude 6 to 7 earthquakes per year, and about 1,000 earthquakes in Alaska each month. Dr. Tape’s work holds the promise of understanding and reducing seismic hazards, with Mellanox’s InfiniBand leading the way in their Data Center.


This image shows earthquakes with a moment magnitude of greater than 4 from 1990-2010. Moment magnitude measures the size of events in terms of how much energy is released.

In January 2017, with support from the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust, the Geophysical Institute, UAF vice chancellor of research, UAF International Arctic Research Center, and UAF IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence, the Geophysical Institute’s Research Computing Systems engineers deployed 11 Mellanox EDR switches and 38 compute nodes distributed across six racks.  This deployment brought Chinook to a total core count of 1892 cores and enhanced the cluster bandwidth from QDR speeds (40 Gb/s) to FDR/EDR speeds (56/100 Gb/s). Chinook now has enough rack space and InfiniBand infrastructure in place to expand to over 4,000 cores, if research demand warrants.

Now, what else are they doing at UAF with all that data center power? Well, one of the main missions of the the mission of the Geophysical Institute is to understand basic geophysical processes governing the planet Earth, especially as they occur in or are relevant to Alaska. With a motto of “Drive the Change,” UAF as a whole is focused on driving positive change for their state. The university is working to build a better future by educating a skilled workforce of teachers, engineers and nurses.

With respect to the environment, Earth to the surface of the sun and beyond, the institute turns data and observations into information useful for state and national needs. An act of Congress established the Geophysical Institute in 1946. Since that time, the institute has earned an international reputation for studying Earth and its physical environments at high latitudes. The institute now consists of seven major research units and many research support facilities. The research units include space physics and aeronomy; atmospheric sciences; snow, ice, and permafrost; seismology; volcanology; remote sensing; and tectonics and sedimentation. Our Interconnected Planet theme will focus the next blog on the work of Professor David Newman, and his research on power grids.


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About Gilad Shainer

Gilad Shainer has served as Mellanox's Vice President of Marketing since March 2013. Previously, he was Mellanox's Vice President of Marketing Development from March 2012 to March 2013. Gilad joined Mellanox in 2001 as a design engineer and later served in senior marketing management roles between July 2005 and February 2012. He holds several patents in the field of high-speed networking and contributed to the PCI-SIG PCI-X and PCIe specifications. Gilad holds a MSc degree (2001, Cum Laude) and a BSc degree (1998, Cum Laude) in Electrical Engineering from the Technion Institute of Technology in Israel.

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