Scientists Produce 3-D Models of BP Oil Spill in Gulf of Mexico Using Ranger Supercomputer

Jun 04, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin's Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) are using the Ranger supercomputer to produce 3-D simulations of the impact of BP's massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill on coastal areas.

With an emergency allocation of one million computing hours from the National Science Foundation TeraGrid project, the researchers are running high resolution models of the Louisiana coast to track the oil spill through the complex marshes, wetlands and channels in the area.

The researchers include Clint Dawson, professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics and head of the Computational Hydraulics Group at the university's Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences; Rick Luettich, professor of marine sciences and head of the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill; and Joannes Westerink, professor of civil engineering at the University of Notre Dame.

Dawson said he and his colleagues have access to highly accurate descriptions of the , Mississippi and Texas coastlines due to earlier hurricane storm surge research.

"What our model can do that a lot of the other models can't do is track the oil spill up into the marshes and wetlands, because we have fine-scale resolution in those areas," he said.

This kind of detail will help the scientists determine how the oil may spread in environmentally sensitive areas. The team's 2-D and 3-D coastal models also will take into account the waves, which may bring the oil closer to the Texas coast.

Of chief concern is the possibility that a hurricane moving through the gulf may bring the oil inland. The team hopes to be able to provide support for disaster responders who may need to make emergency management decisions based on the computer models.

The primary reason for using Ranger is the massive scale of the data involved in this type of modeling and simulation. The researchers receive of the spill from the university's Center for Space Research and download meteorological data from the National Centers for Environmental Protection every six hours. They combine these data into a 72-hour forecast at 50-meter resolution, which is 10 to 20 times more detailed than many other models being run on the spill.

TACC Director Jay Boisseau said this is one of many emergency response efforts for which TACC has provided computational power.

"Ranger gives us the ability to support an immense amount of computational research while reacting quickly to urgent needs such as hurricane predictions, swine flu outbreak scenarios and this oil spill," Boisseau said.

For each model run, the Advanced Circulation for Oceanic, Coastal and Estuarine Waters uses 4,096 cores on Ranger for three hours. The group has been performing between one and four simulations each day.

Gordon Wells, program manager for real-time satellite remote sensing at the Center for Space Research, is a technology adviser for state emergency management efforts. He said he is optimistic that the 3-D models will show how the spill interacts with underwater vegetation and provide a more accurate forecast of the environmental impact the spill will have in the coming months.

Explore further: NASA sees Hurricane Edouard far from US, but creating rough surf

Provided by News from The University of Texas at Austin

3 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Models indicate Gulf spill may be in major current

May 17, 2010

(AP) -- Researchers tracking the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico say computer models show the black ooze may have already entered a major current flowing toward the Florida Keys, and are sending out a research vessel ...

Envisat monitoring changes in oil spill

May 03, 2010

ESA's Envisat has captured the changes in direction of the rapidly-growing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as strong winds over the weekend pushed it around and hampered clean-up efforts.

Recommended for you

NASA sees Odile soaking Mexico and southwestern US

6 hours ago

Tropical Storm Odile continues to spread moisture and generate strong thunderstorms with heavy rainfall over northern Mexico's mainland and the Baja California as well as the southwestern U.S. NASA's Tropical ...

NASA sees Tropical Storm Polo intensifying

7 hours ago

Tropical storm warnings now issued for a portion of the Southwestern coast of Mexico as Polo continues to strengthen. Infrared imagery from NASA's Aqua satellite showed powerful thunderstorms around the center ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

MarkyMark
not rated yet Jun 05, 2010
Cant help noticing a voting ad blaming Obama for the spill???