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Mission of the Climate Systems Center

The physics of climate of the Earth and other planets offers a wide variety of deeply intriguing and challenging problems. The aim of the Center is to provide a congenial home for investigators thinking about such puzzles. We are interested in the full panopy of climate problems, from global warming to Neo-proterozoic glaciation to Martian paleoclimate. Because of the complex, nonlinear and interacting nature of the climate system, models play an important role in the subject. In our view, the term "model" includes everything from chalkboard explorations to full atmosphere- ocean general circulation models, with a variety of simplified models in between. Most explorations are computer-assisted in one way or another, and there is a need for a climate system modeling framework which makes it easier to construct models for testing novel hypotheses about climate phenomena.

Through a constant interplay between software development efforts and climate research involving the models, we hope to advance the state of the art in climate simulation software. Specifically, our goal is to bring modern object-oriented design into the business of climate modeling. The Center seeks to develop, incrementally, a climate modeling toolkit which can be knit together flexibly using the Python scripting language. The system will also simplify the impl;ementation of models on modern parallel architectures, notably "beowulf" clusters built of commodity Linux boxes communicating on a fast network. Using climate simulation as a prime application, we also hope to advance the state of the art of scientific simulation software in general.

An additional goal is to smooth the way for small workgroups to get set up to do climate modelling using atmosphere-ocean general circulation models. With the growth of computer power, it is now possible for an academic department, or even a new junior faculty member with moderate start-up funds, to do significant climate modelling without relying on computer support from national centers. This site provides how-to advice for putting together hardware and software to do climate modelling on the scale we ourselves are involved in. A very significant facility can be put together for under $50,000. If the main point is educational, to introduce undergraduate or graduate students to design, conduct and analysis of GCM experiments, a perfectly useful facility can be put together for $8,000. or less, using two dual-processor Linux boxes hooked together with a fast network. The portable, parallel atmosphere-ocean GCM we are developing for this purpose is called FOAM, and at some point we may also offer support for flexible use of CSM on moderate-scale beowulf clusters.

We emphasize, though, that first and foremost we are interested in thinking about the grand challenge problems of climate science. It is through constantly challenging the modelling framework with difficult, innovative and even oddball problems that progress in software development will be made

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