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Natural Awakenings

Weather Watcher: New Supercomputer Predicts Climate Changes

Oct 31, 2012 12:14PM

Yellowstone is one of the greatest natural treasures in the American West, and there’s now a new environmental “sheriff” in town. A supercomputer of the same name is set to model future climate changes and forecast extreme weather like no other.

“It’s a big deal,” says climate scientist Linda Mearns, Ph.D., of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in Boulder, Colorado. The Washington Post reports that Yellowstone will help researchers calculate climate change on a regional, rather than continental, scale. With a better grasp of how warming may affect local water resources, endangered species and extreme winds, local and state governments will be able to plan more effectively.

The $30 million supercomputer, funded by the National Science Foundation, will generate climate projections for seven-square-mile tracts, instead of the previous capability of 60-square-mile units. It will also provide climate snapshots in intervals of hours, rather than days.

Mathew Maltrud, of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, in New Mexico, says, “We’re moving into a realm where we have models that resemble the ocean, the atmosphere, the ice and the land to a high degree.” Yellowstone will show a more realistic interaction of these components.

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