NSF-MRI: Acquisition of a Small Computing Cluster for Atmospheric Physics Studies

This proposal requests funding to purchase an 8-node computing cluster system. Each node com- prises of a 64-bit mainboard with 4 AMD Opteron central processing units (CPUs), 8 gigabytes of random access memory (RAM), 160 gigabytes of hard disk, and a Myrinet network card. The nodes are connected to a Myrinet switch with fiber cables, allowing efficient communication with other nodes. Equipped with a 4-terrabyte file server, the system will be housed in Coastal Carolina Univer- sity (CCU) new Science Center and managed jointly by the Physics and Computer Science depart- ments. Costs associated with system operation (power and cooling) and maintenance (upgrades, part replacements, and personnel support) will be provided by CCU.

Overview of research projects and intellectual merit. The primary task of the cluster system is to advance two projects in Atmospheric Physics. The first project requires the cluster to run the National Center for Atmospheric Research Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model (WACCM) in addressing issues on climate dynamics and ozone variability, related to the coupling between the stratosphere and troposphere. The second project depends on the cluster to operate the University of Oklahoma Advanced Regional Prediction System (ARPS) for gravity wave simulations to better understand gravity wave sources/mechanisms and to better constrain gravity wave parameterization in climate models. Together, results from these projects will help assess present and future climate varia- tions by increasing knowledge of climate dynamics and by improving present climate models that are used to help perform such assessment.

Resulting activities and their broader impacts. Undergraduate research training and education are central to the projects’ goals and success. Participating student researchers will be involved in building/maintaining of the cluster, in conducting the WACCM and ARPS experiments, in analyzing model results, and in presenting/writing research results. As such, the proposed projects offer under- graduates a unique exposure to cutting-edge research that may not otherwise be available at similar state-supported Liberal Arts institutions. Additionally, results of the projects and cluster usage will be incorporated into courses like Fluid Dynamics and Atmospheric Physics that are emphasized in CCU’s new Applied Physics major. The cluster will also be an important tool in the development of a new Bioinformatics program at CCU. The integration of research and education related to the cluster will strengthen CCU’s institutional commitment toward enhancing undergraduate education through inquiry-based learning.

Capabilities of the new cluster will be made available to all CCU faculty members and their stu- dents. Under institutional management, a cluster website will be created to highlight the new cluster and formal requests for computing time will be announced to recruit users. A CCU personnel, the PI, and CO-I will facilitate and coordinate these requests, and results from these requests will be featured on the website. Present research activities in Astrophysics, Physical Oceanography, and Bioinformatics will immediately benefit from the new cluster. The new cluster will significantly improve CCU computing facilities, in light of dwindling state support.