Lead international CI activities

CISL is highly visible on the international front and engages with international climate and weather organizations, programs, peer supercomputing centers and laboratories, and international projects. Our international impact spans data services and exchanges, analysis and visualization tools, computational support, strategic advisory functions, training, capacity building, and participation in international conferences.

CISL shares its strong technical competencies in supporting international developments, advisory functions, best practices, capacity building, and research projects. CISL provides technical leadership to international activities such as the WMO’s Global Information System (WIS), engages in formal data exchanges and data provisioning agreements with international peer centers in supercomputing, climate, and weather, and with international projects such as the Earth System Grid Federation, provides software to a worldwide community, and hosts international meetings focused on advancing climate, weather, and computing research.

CISL’s partnership strategy is to engage research CI communities in activities that complement its goals and mission, that broadly advance high performance computing (HPC), data storage, and networking technologies, and that improve international CI. The bi-directional sharing aligns with NCAR’s leadership role as a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC), keeps the organization in a world leadership position, and impacts international achievements through collaboration with peer groups.

Research Data Archive

There are several noteworthy formal international data exchange agreements associated with the NCAR Research Data Archive (RDA). ECMWF and JMA routinely share data under longstanding Memoranda Of Understanding with NCAR. These reanalyses and operational model outputs add to the RDA and are important because they are not readily available anywhere else in the U.S. Having the data directly available to the HPC environment makes it efficient for our community to use these high-volume resources. CISL reciprocates by preparing observational datasets and delivering them to support future reanalysis efforts, e.g., the International Comprehensive Ocean-Atmosphere Data Set (ICOADS). Overall, the RDA is an internationally recognized source for over 10 reanalysis collections, all at the highest resolutions available.

ICOADS historical data
Major historical digitized and external archive data sources were added to ICOADS Release 3.0, for 1800-2014. Horizontal black lines illustrate the time ranges of the original data sources, which are also shown in the source label along with the number of reports. The annual numbers of reports are plotted as curves, blue for the previous Release 2.5 (extended by NCEP NRT data for 2008-14), and red for Release 3.0. Data coverage prior to 1800 is sparse, and that following 2007 continues to grow annually.

CISL is very active internationally in the area of data services. The RDA is an extremely valuable international scientific data resource, providing important collections to the global community and making EU collections available to U.S. scientific communities. CISL’s Science Gateway Framework (SGF) federates with the global Earth System Grid Federation (ESGF), sharing catalogs and security protocols making CCSM, CESM, WCRP/CMIP5, and other data collections accessible via the ESGF environment. CISL is a primary partner in the ACADIS effort which provides data management support for NSF-sponsored Arctic research including Arctic Observing Network (AON) data for the International Polar Year (IPY). This significant data repository, representing over 3,800 irreplaceable datasets, was successfully transitioned to NCEAS management this year. CISL also provides computing and data management support for the Antarctic Mesoscale Prediction System (AMPS), an experimental, real-time numerical weather prediction capability that supports the United States Antarctic Program, Antarctic science, and international Antarctic efforts. Finally, CISL staff have contributed to the development of the UK’s National Environment Research Council (NERC) Big Data program.

Data analysis and visualization tools

CISL’s data analysis and visualization tools (e.g., NCL, PyNGL, and VAPOR) are widely used in centers and universities around the world. CISL continued leading an ongoing collaborative research agreement with the Korean Institute for Science and Technology Information (KISTI) to enhance CISL’s open source VAPOR package. In collaboration with KISTI, a number of new analysis capabilities were added to the VAPOR package, including integration with the Python Matplotlib module; support for basic statistics; and support for visualizing data generated by the FVCOM ocean model. One KISTI scientist accomplished the latter during a two-month summer visit to NCAR.

CISL released a beta version of NCL with numerous specialized functions for addressing the effects of heat waves, droughts and evapotranspiration on humans and agriculture. NCL and Python efforts were closely integrated through the alpha release of a new WRF Python analysis module, beta releases of both PyNGL and PyNIO, and the distribution of all software under the Conda package manager. NCL training was expanded to include various Python modules, reaching over 150 students in various workshops, short courses, and tutorials.

Intel Parallel Computing Center for Weather and Climate Simulation

CISL continues to participate in international collaborations designed to grapple with the challenges of emerging exascale technologies. The NCAR/CU Intel Parallel Computing Center for Weather and Climate Simulation includes a collaboration with the Indian Institute of Science focused on improving the scalability of CESM’s radiation code. The G8 Exascale Climate Science (ECS) project, completed this year, was a collaboration between CISL’s Technology Development Division and computer scientists and climate experts from Inria (France), the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (USA), the German Research School for Simulation Sciences (Germany), Tokyo Institute of Technology (Japan), University of Tennessee at Knoxville (USA), University of Tsukuba (Japan), Victoria University (Canada), and Barcelona Supercomputing Center (Spain). Over three years, this collaboration studied various aspects of the exascale climate modeling challenge, including application scalability, node performance, and system resilience. The project uses CESM as one of the target applications, and it relied heavily on NCAR staff for technical support of the project.

Fortran standards

CISL participates in International Standards (ISO) activities to contribute to the development of the Fortran programming language. A CISL staff member serves as chair of the U.S. Fortran Committee. This participation allows programmers at NCAR to track and influence Fortran’s development. With NCAR models facing future HPC resources with science at the forefront of ever-larger numbers of processors, program resilience in the face of processor failures is becoming a critical limitation, and NCAR is a part of the evolution of strategies for treating this limitation. NCAR hosted the joint meeting of the international and U.S. Fortran committees at the Mesa Lab in June 2016.

International Computing in Atmospheric Sciences workshop

CISL hosts and organizes the popular international Computing in Atmospheric Sciences (iCAS) workshop every other year in Europe, with the most recent event taking place in September 2015. iCAS is a forum where scientists, industry experts, and computing professionals from around the world can attend and discuss challenges and new approaches to advance climate and weather research. The next iCAS meeting will held again in 2017, and planning was begun in FY2106. Finally, CISL staff members collaborate with many more foreign institutions and serve on various international committees and advisory panels, including the German Climate Computing Center (DKRZ) Advisory Committee.

World Meteorological Organization Information System

CISL contributes to developing the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Information System (WIS). Under the auspices of the United Nations, the WMO is designing, developing, and deploying WIS as a next-generation globally federated information system for weather, climate, hydrology, oceanography, and many other disciplines. CISL is involved in the management and technical direction of WIS and has contributed ideas, strategies, and services developed through our work with CDP, ESG, and ACADIS.


RDA activities are 100% Core funded. The collaborative research agreement with KISTI is funded 80% by KISTI, with 20% of its support from NSF Core funding. ESG, CDP, and NCL activities are 100% Core funded. ACADIS is funded 100% by NSF Special funds. WMO activities are 100% Core funded.