World's most powerful climate-change supercomputer powers up

According to NCAR, Yellowstone is divided into three primary sections: a blistering-fast performance cluster powered by a whopping 72,288 Intel Sandy Bridge EP processor cores, a massive 144.6 terabyte storage farm and a system for visualizing all of its data.

All told, Yellowstone rates 30 times more powerful than its predecessor, a system known as “Bluefire” that NCAR took possession of back in April 2008. At the time, Bluefire was state-of-the-art; a supercomputer capable of peaking at 76 teraflops (76 trillion calculations per second). To put that in context, NCAR says where Bluefire would take three hours to carry out an “experimental short-term weather” forecast, Yellowstone might render it in just nine minutes. And as you’d expect, the increase isn’t just a matter of raw speed: Yellowstone will also be able to model earth processes of much more daunting complexity.

“The Yellowstone supercomputer will dramatically advance our understanding of Earth,” says Al Kellie, director of NCAR’s Computational and Information Systems Laboratory (CISL) on NCAR’s website. “Its computing capacity and speed will allow us to investigate a wide range of phenomena that affect our lives, with more detail than ever before.”