CISL Director’s Message

Anke Kamrath
Anke Kamrath, CISL Director

CISL operates NCAR’s supercomputing and data services that are tailored to the atmospheric, geospace, and related science communities including more than 1,700 users at more than 330 universities and other institutions. Our annual report highlights the broad scope and high quality of CISL’s work. In mid-2017 I was appointed Director of CISL after serving as the acting, then interim director since late 2016. I am pleased to report that during the past fiscal year, CISL’s progress has maintained its exceptional pace, and that our top priority for FY2017 has been achieved: the 5.3-petaflops supercomputer Cheyenne was installed on time and within budget.

This annual report is organized into three sections that begin with our service achievements in cyberinfrastructure, user support, big data, and information technology. The science section follows with reports on our data-focused research, numerical methods for modeling, and applied computational science research. Finally, CISL’s education efforts are described by our projects that integrate education into our research, train researchers in scientific computing, and reach out to attract new and diverse talent to our scientific and technical enterprises.


CISL’s service highlight for FY2017 was the installation and transition to operations of the Cheyenne supercomputer with all of its supporting infrastructure. Years of detailed planning by CISL’s expert staff directed all of the associated preparation, logistics, and labor toward the successful operation of this new system. NCAR now boasts a productive supercomputing facility that supports the scientific goals of multiple research communities and enables another four years of scientific discovery. It is worthwhile to note that CISL provides equitable and efficient access to several distinct communities of researchers in the atmospheric and related sciences, including the university community, Climate Simulation Laboratory users, NCAR researchers, and University of Wyoming researchers.

CISL’s service contributions to the research community extend far beyond equipment and facilities. Our FY2017 services include user support, Big Data leadership, enterprise IT for NCAR and UCAR, and extensive participation in a variety of cyberinfrastructure communities. Our achievements in each of these areas directly support the strategic goals of NCAR and the NSF.


CISL’s research activities supported scientific computation, numerical methods development, geophysical modeling, plus geophysical data and model experiments that advanced our knowledge about the Earth System. Our activities helped the geophysics community adopt new computational methods and mathematical tools to improve research. This year’s accomplishments in data-centric research include an important new release of the Data Assimilation Research Testbed (DART), improvements in climate adaptation planning for the U.S. West and various U.S. military bases, and a new model for climate change detection and attribution. Progress in developing numerical methods for modeling included extending a dynamical core used in community models to non-hydrostatic scales, improving the practicality of meshless numerical methods that do not rely on grids, and creating new parallel-in-time computational methods. CISL continued advancing applied computational science research by advancing collaborations that use many-core and accelerator-based hardware in weather and climate simulations, reducing data volumes and complexity through compression, and speeding up data post-processing workflows by creating parallel tools. Finally, CISL combines science and education through research and technical collaborations using a focused visitor program and research-oriented workshops and seminars.


CISL integrated interdisciplinary research and education for applied mathematics, statistics, computational science, and Earth System science. All of CISL’s educational and training efforts are designed to complement and supplement programs at universities and other centers. Educational events continued to bring new interns, students, mathematicians, data scientists, and computer scientists to NCAR, and these led to new collaborations, influenced graduate student research, and enriched our staff. These events helped the research communities cope with the Big Data challenges of today’s research environment.

CISL continued to integrate research and education through internships, externships, and educational activities for college and university faculty. CISL provides training for researchers in the atmospheric and related sciences to help them improve their use of NCAR’s petascale computing and data resources, and this training includes curricula in supercomputing, data analysis, and visualization for scientists and interns. CISL’s community outreach activities extend the scope of our education activities, broaden participation, and develop the future workforce using visualizations, social media, and exhibits at the NWSC and international conferences.

Throughout all of its work providing services, advancing science, and educating current and future scientists and engineers, CISL extends opportunities to increasingly diverse audiences and attracts underrepresented groups to engage with the atmospheric, computational, and related sciences.

As you read about CISL’s accomplishments, I hope you will appreciate the importance of our strategic efforts, the pride we share in our work, and the dedication of our staff.