The impending threat of global climate change and its regional manifestations is among the most important and urgent problems facing humanity. Society needs accurate and reliable estimates of changes in the probability of regional weather variations to develop science-based adaptation and mitigation strategies. Recent advances in weather prediction and in our understanding and ability to model the climate system suggest that it is both necessary and possible to revolutionize climate prediction to meet these societal needs. However, the scientific workforce and the computational capability required to bring about such a revolution is not available in any single nation. Motivated by the success of internationally funded infrastructure in other areas of science, this paper argues that, because of the complexity of the climate system, and because the regional manifestations of climate change are mainly through changes in the statistics of regional weather variations, the scientific and computational requirements to predict its behavior reliably are so enormous that the nations of the world should create a small number of multinational high-performance computing facilities dedicated to the grand challenges of developing the capabilities to predict climate variability and change on both global and regional scales over the coming decades. Such facilities will play a key role in the development of next-generation climate models, build global capacity in climate research, nurture a highly trained workforce, and engage the global user community, policymakers, and stakeholders. We recommend the creation of a small number of multinational facilities with computer capability at each facility of about 20 petaflops in the near term, about 200 petaflops within five years, and 1 exaflop by the end of the next decade. Each facility should have sufficient scientific workforce to develop and maintain the software and data analysis infrastructure. Such facilities will enable questions of what resolution, both horizontal and vertical, in atmospheric and ocean models, is necessary for more confident predictions at the regional and local level. Current limitations in computing power have placed severe limitations on such an investigation, which is now badly needed. These facilities will also provide the world's scientists with the computational laboratories for fundamental research on weather–climate interactions using 1-km resolution models and on atmospheric, terrestrial, cryospheric, and oceanic processes at even finer scales. Each facility should have enabling infrastructure including hardware, software, and data analysis support, and scientific capacity to interact with the national centers and other visitors. This will accelerate our understanding of how the climate system works and how to model it. It will ultimately enable the climate community to provide society with climate predictions, which are based on our best knowledge of science and the most advanced technology.
George Mason University (GMU), Fairfax, Virginia, and COLA/IGES, Calverton, Maryland
European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), Reading, United Kingdom
Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom, and University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom
Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany
ECMWF, Reading, United Kingdom, and Oxford University, Clarendon Laboratory, Oxford, United Kingdom
Met Office, Exeter, United Kingdom, and Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom