Nothing has produced more news—and news coverage–in the past few weeks than the massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But one aspect that hasn’t received much media attention is the sophisticated super-computing at work behind the scenes. One dramatic example: The National Science Foundation has made an emergency allocation of 1 million compute hours that will allow the Texas Advanced Computing Center supercomputer to analyze how spreading oil may affect the area’s coastlines.
According to a fascinating Computerworld story, conventional computer models are not sufficiently detailed to produce an accurate picture of subtle interactions in environmentally sensitive areas such as marshes and wetlands. The model planned by the Advanced Computing Center will be able to capture a much finer level of detail—and will also utilize Katrina research models to look at what may happen to the Gulf spill in the event of a hurricane.
Researchers hope to move quickly from 2-D to 3-D modeling, in order to show effects at various depths as the oil comes in contact with underwater surfaces, tides and other factors. That will require a lot of processing, so it’s fortunate the Center’s “Ranger” is ranked as the ninth most powerful supercomputer in the world.
Even though we can’t watch Ranger working on the problem, there are some interesting data visualizations available online. GIS vendor ESRI has put together an interactive social media map, along with a Resources page that provides links to other relevant sites.
Spotfire Blogging Team
Image Credit: Microsoft Office Clip Art