Dr. Richard Loft

Dr. Richard Loft

What are the limits of modeling our planet?

Picture of Dr. Rich Loft

Lecture Description

Over the last half-century, our ability to shrink transistors has led to the exponential growth in computing power, giving scientists a powerful new tool: the computer model. Computers act like mathematical “telescopes”, enabling scientists to peer into problems that can’t be solved by human brainpower alone. One such problem is the behavior of that crucial, thin layer of fluids that enshrouds planet Earth – our atmosphere and oceans. Computer modeling of the atmosphere yielded steady improving weather forecasts, which has saved innumerable lives and property. Modeling of the interplay of the components in the Earth’s climate system has led to an understanding of the risks of greenhouse gas emissions, knowledge critical to ensuring the sustainability of human civilization and perhaps even life on Earth.

But nature teaches us that all exponential growth can’t go on indefinitely. While the end of the growth of computing power is not at hand just yet, challenges have emerged that suggest the “free lunch” era is over. The road ahead will be fraught with emerging limits on Earth system models in terms of computational speed, energy consumption, software complexity, and data volumes. Ideas for meeting each of these challenges, so we can continue to make scientific progress, is the focus of this public lecture.

Short Bio

Dr. Richard Loft is the Chief Technology Officer in the Computational and Information Systems Laboratory (CISL) at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). In this capacity, he oversees CISL’s R&D efforts in areas such as technology tracking, algorithmic research, and the development of useful computational tools and services. Dr. Loft received a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1988. In 1989, he joined Thinking Machine Corporation, where he worked as an application engineer. Dr. Loft has worked at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) since 1994. He has authored over 30 peer reviewed publications and two book chapters. At the IEEE Supercomputing Conference in 2001, his team received an honorable mention Gordon Bell prize for developing the High Order Method Modeling Environment (HOMME), a scalable dynamical core which was subsequently integrated into the widely-used Community Earth System Model. Recognizing the need to encourage the next generation to take up careers in high performance computing, in 2007 Dr. Loft created the Summer Internships in Parallel Computational Science (SIParCS) program at NCAR, which as trained over 100 students in computational science.

Location and Dates

NCAR Mesa Laboratory
1850 Table Mesa Drive
Boulder, CO 80305

Sat, April 21, 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
Wed, April 25, 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

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