Lead international CI activities

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

ICOADS data
Global distribution of marine surface measurements for September 2017 in the International Comprehensive Ocean-Atmosphere Data Set (ICOADS). ICOADS collects and distributes environmental observations from merchant and research ships, moored and drifting buoys, and coastal stations. In collaboration with NOAA partners at the National Center for Environmental Information (NCEI) Asheville, NCAR processes data and adds them to ICOADS on a monthly basis. The data are openly shared with the international community, and program guidance and assistance are given by the ICOADS Steering Committee (ISC). The ISC has co-chairs from the U.S. and UK, and representatives from the U.S., UK, and Germany.


CISL shares its strong technical competencies in supporting international developments, advisory functions, best practices, capacity building, and research projects. CISL engages in formal data exchanges and data provisioning agreements with international peer centers in supercomputing, climate, and weather, and with international projects such as ESGF. CISL also provides software to worldwide research communities and hosts international meetings focused on advancing climate, weather, and computing research.

CISL’s partnership strategy is to engage research cyberinfrastructure (CI) communities in activities that complement CISL’s goals and mission, that broadly advance HPC, scientific data management, data analysis and visualization, 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.

CISL is active internationally in many aspects of data services. The RDA is an extremely valuable international scientific data resource, providing important data collections to the global community and making EU collections available to U.S. scientific communities. The NCAR Climate Data Gateway provides CCSM, CESM, WCRP/CMIP5, and other data collections to an active international community of users. CISL operates the NCAR ESGF Data Node, sharing data, catalogs, and security protocols making CESM, CMIP5, and related data collections accessible via the federated ESGF search and discovery environment. CISL leads the development of a digital asset search and discovery capability, DASH Search. 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.

There are several noteworthy formal international data exchange agreements associated with the development of the NCAR Research Data Archive (RDA). ECMWF and JMA routinely share data under longstanding Memoranda Of Understanding with NCAR. These high-resolution reanalyses and operational model outputs from Europe and Japan add to the RDA and are important because they are not readily available anywhere else in the U.S. Further, having the data directly available to the HPC environment makes it efficient for our community to use these high-data-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. The RDA is an internationally recognized source for over 11 reanalysis collections, all at the highest resolutions available.

CISL’s data analysis and visualization (DAV) tools (e.g., NCL, PyNGL, and VAPOR) are widely used in centers and universities around the world. In 2017 CISL merged DAV efforts to address the most challenging visualization and data analysis problems facing our community in this era of Big Data.

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, and with help from DKRZ in Germany, a number of new visualization capabilities were added to the VAPOR package, including support for unstructured data sets (e.g., NCAR’s MPAS model and the German ICON model).

NCL and Python efforts were closely integrated through the first official release of the wrf-python analysis module, major releases of both PyNGL and PyNIO, and the distribution of all software under the conda-forge channel. In collaboration with DKRZ, the first-ever comprehensive NCL User Guide was released, including a suite of NCL and Python examples for a variety of complex grids. NCL training was expanded to include various Python modules, reaching over 150 students in various workshops, short courses, and tutorials.

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.

CISL participates in International Organization for Standardization (ISO) activities to contribute to the development of the Fortran programming language, with a CISL staff member serving as chair of the U.S. Fortran Committee. This participation allows programmers at NCAR to track and influence the development of this programming language that is critical to scientific computing. As NCAR models face 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 influences the worldwide evolution of strategies for treating this limitation.

CISL provides strategic support to the Internet2, the Western Regional Network (WRN), and other worldwide networking activities. WRN partners with the Pacific Wave to expand its infrastructure to facilitate growth in “production-oriented” international network connectivity. The Pacific Wave production infrastructure supports multiple 100 Gbps connections among U.S.-based research and education networks and international counterparts from countries of the Pacific Rim, including Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan.

Internet2 supports members’ needs to collaborate globally, offering high-performance network exchange points for international networking and scientific research collaboration. This capability provides a strategic service for leaders in research and higher education by utilizing an open network exchange facility for a rich community of international and domestic research and education networks. By providing critical connection points within the U.S., Internet2 enables researchers to partner and collaborate with their peers around the world with 100-gigabit Ethernet technology.

NETS is an active and lead participant in both of these international network activities and works with NCAR/UCAR users to ensure optimal performance for international network activities.

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 2017. 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 2017 iCAS meeting brought together over 60 representatives from weather and climate computing centers around the world to discuss advances in modeling and HPC systems as well as challenges in data analytics, workflows, and management. 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.

CISL’s international CI activities are funded as follows:

  • NSF Core funding supports RDA, NCL, VAPOR, DSET, and DASH activities.
  • The collaborative research agreement with KISTI is supported 80% by KISTI award C17018, 20% by NSF Core funds.
  • NETS’ international activities are supported by UCAR Communications Pool indirect funds.