It’s on everyone’s bucket list; to experience the Great Barrier Reef. In fact, Traveler Magazine puts in on the Ultimate Travel Bucket List. However, before you book that dream vacation to this World Heritage site, know that the reef is fragile and scientific research says it is getting more fragile with each passing day. So much so that scientists are working frantically to preserve it. In fact, the work being done at Australia’s National Computational Infrastructure is nothing less than a virtual wake up call for as all of us about to the impact global warming is having on the reef.
NCI is a national provider of high-performance research computing and data services. NCI systems currently support around 4,000 researchers working on more than 500 projects. These researchers come from more than 34 Australian universities, national science agencies and medical research institutes, with an increasing industry user base. As Australia’s national research computing service, the organization provides world-class, high-end services to Australia’s researchers, the primary objectives of which are to raise the ambition, impact, and outcomes of Australian research through access to advance computational and data-intensive methods, support, and high-performance infrastructure.
Back in 2013, NCI selected Mellanox’s interconnect to support Australia’s national research computing infrastructure which provides world-class, high-end services to Australia’s researchers. Mellanox’s interconnect solutions allow for faster inter-node connectivity and access to storage, providing researchers and scientific research organizations with critical on-demand access to NCI’s high-performance cloud. The system is designed around Mellanox CloudX™ , a reference architecture that provides the most efficient, highest performing scalable clouds based on Mellanox’s superior interconnect.
Then, in 2016, NCI chose Mellanox’s 100Gbit/s EDR InfiniBand interconnect for its newest Lenovo® NextScale supercomputer. The new system added a whopping 40 percent performance increase in NCI computational capacity.
Some research can take years — even decades — to come to fruition but at NCI, the results are already in. Earlier in 2017, it was reported that more than two-thirds of the coral in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef was experiencing enormous amounts of bleaching. Similar bleaching events occurred in 2016, and 2017 has already devastated a 1,500 km (900 miles) stretch of the reef. Before 2016, there had only been two bleaching events along the Great Barrier Reef in the past two decades, reflecting an alarming trend. That’s when researchers came to NCI to get their work done.
Leveraging the computing resources at NCI, researchers looked at four key extreme Australian events; the Angry Summer 2012/13; the Coral Sea marine heatwave of 2016; the severe rain event in NE Australia in 2010; and the 2006 drought in southeast Australia. They modeled how often these events would occur under each scenario. Results showed that keeping global temperatures from rising less than 1.5°C would have a clear benefit for Australia in terms of reducing extreme weather events and the costs associated with such incidences. Further, scientists at NCI reported that if the global average surface temperatures increase just 1.5°C above pre-industrial conditions, then a repeat of the coral bleaching that severely damaged the Great Barrier Reef earlier this year would become more than twice as likely. Scientific modeling results from NCI also revealed that if the world heats up by just 2°C more than the pre-industrial world, it nearly triples the odds of another mass bleaching event.
These findings from University of Melbourne scientists at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, are the result of research using NCI’s Mellanox-enabled HPC facilities to look at how Australian extremes in heat, drought, precipitation and ocean warming will change in a world 1.5°C and 2°C warmer than pre-industrial conditions.
As the world continues to vigorously debate the impact of global warming, NCI is helping to bring the facts to the table — not in months or weeks, but now, today. For a World Heritage site in peril, these findings have long-term implications that require action now.