The open ETH project EXCLAIM is developing an exascale computing and data platform for weather and climate modelling that is capable of simulating the regional to global ocean-​sea-ice-atmosphere-land system at much higher resolution than hitherto possible. Such a step change in resolution will permit the explicit modelling of many critical processes of weather and climate, in particular clouds and convection, thus reducing uncertainties in weather prediction and climate projections.

clouds photo
Photo: One of the key topics of EXCLAIM are cloud and precipitation systems (here low-level clouds over the North Pacific off San Diego, Photo Gruber)

EXCLAIM is primarily funded by the executive board of ETH Zurich with substantial financial contributions by the Department of Environmental Systems Science and reserve funds of several participating professors of several departments. In addition, all partners provide substantial in-kind contributions. EXCLAIM is run under the umbrella of ETH’s Center of Climate Systems Modeling (C2SM) and centrally contributes to the implementation of C2SM’s first two research themes, High-Performance Computing and Earth System Modelling. Over six years, a team of about 10 software engineers and postdocs, guided by a Director of Science and of Software will develop this platform in collaboration with the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre (CSCS), the Swiss Data Science Center (SDSC), the Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology (MeteoSwiss), and the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa). The project brings together a total of 13 principle investigators from three different departments at ETH (D-USYS, D-INFK, D-PHYS) and the above external partners. It will be led by an executive committee consisting of Prof. Nicolas Gruber (lead-PI, ETH), Prof. Christoph Schär (ETH), Prof. Thomas Schulthess (CSCS, ETH), and Prof. Christof Appenzeller (MeteoSwiss).

The proposed EXCLAIM modeling and data platform will be based on the ICOsahedral Nonhydrostatic Model (ICON) system that was developed primarily by the Deutscher Wetterdienst (DWD) and Max Planck Institute for Meteorology (MPI-M). EXCLAIM adds to these developments the expertise of the Swiss partners in developing weather and climate models and data infrastructures that are able to exploit the next generation of supercomputer architectures. The project pays special attention to the usability and transferability of the platform while maintaining a high computational throughput. This requires significant attention to establishing efficient workstreams and data flows that deal with the data avalanche generated by the high-resolution models. The modeling platform will use a set of use cases to guide and test its development, ranging from an aquaplanet setup to a fully coupled ocean-sea-ice-atmosphere-land model covering the globe at kilometer-scale resolution and capable of achieving a computational throughput that permits simulations for decades to centuries. A key path toward the implementation of these goals is to refactor the codes using the concept of domain specific software frameworks and higher-level code abstractions.

The development of the EXCLAIM platform is based on a strong collaborative approach that brings together computer, data, and climate scientists from ETHZ (including CSCS and SDSC), MeteoSwiss, and Empa. This collaboration also includes the DWD and MPI-M in Germany, and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) in England, Italy and Germany — making this one of the strongest model development consortia worldwide.

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