Why do we need supercomputing?

Supercomputing has many applications, probably more than you realize.  Let's look at a few examples.

Weather forecasting

Accurate weather forecasting is economically very important. Mid-term predictions help planning in agriculture and logistics. Short term predictions are important to keep traffic safe. This is an important application of supercomputing, e.g., the UK Met Office has a compute capacity of 14 PetaFLOPS.

Space weather

We increasingly rely on satellites for communication, navigation services and earth observations.  This is very expensive infrastructure that is vulnerable to solar activity.  A solar flare can disrupt services or even damage infrastructure.  Early warning is crucial to limit or mitigate potential issues.  Space weather prediction is done on supercomputing infrastructure.

Climate

The importance of understanding the impact of climate change can hardly be overstated.  To reduce uncertainty, many models with a range of parameters have to be computed.  These models can describe the global climate, but also more specifically for regions and the impact on weather conditions, and hence the prosperity of a region.

New energy sources

How to efficiently run a windfarm?  Computing the air flow in a windfarm is computationally very intensive.  How to build better batteries to store energy or more performant solar panels?  Modelling the chemical and electrical properties of materials is quite complex.  Can we create fusion reactors that powers the electric grid?  The properties of high-temperature plasmas in intense magnetic fields are very difficult to calculate.

Health care

How do infectious diseases spread, and more importantly, how can you stop an epidemic?  Supercomputers are used to help formulate public health policies and advice.  Drugs interact with the cells of your body to fight diseases.  To find more effective drugs or even new cures, this interaction is modelled on the molecular level on HPC infrastructure.  HPC is even used to design prostheses for a specific individual.

Environment

What is the impact of a new ring road on traffic flow, but also on air pollution?  Politicians can make informed decisions based on models that are run on supercomputers.  When managing waterways, where should flood plains be created to reduce the risk to populated areas?  Can you improve the aerodynamics of an airplane to reduce fuel consumption and noise?

These are just some of the applications that benefit from the vast compute power that is offered by HPC.

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