Publications by Tim Palmer

The use of imprecise processing to improve accuracy in weather & climate prediction

Journal of Computational Physics 271 (2014) 2-18

PD Düben, H McNamara, TN Palmer

The use of stochastic processing hardware and low precision arithmetic in atmospheric models is investigated. Stochastic processors allow hardware-induced faults in calculations, sacrificing bit-reproducibility and precision in exchange for improvements in performance and potentially accuracy of forecasts, due to a reduction in power consumption that could allow higher resolution. A similar trade-off is achieved using low precision arithmetic, with improvements in computation and communication speed and savings in storage and memory requirements. As high-performance computing becomes more massively parallel and power intensive, these two approaches may be important stepping stones in the pursuit of global cloud-resolving atmospheric modelling. The impact of both hardware induced faults and low precision arithmetic is tested using the Lorenz '96 model and the dynamical core of a global atmosphere model. In the Lorenz '96 model there is a natural scale separation; the spectral discretisation used in the dynamical core also allows large and small scale dynamics to be treated separately within the code. Such scale separation allows the impact of lower-accuracy arithmetic to be restricted to components close to the truncation scales and hence close to the necessarily inexact parametrised representations of unresolved processes. By contrast, the larger scales are calculated using high precision deterministic arithmetic. Hardware faults from stochastic processors are emulated using a bit-flip model with different fault rates. Our simulations show that both approaches to inexact calculations do not substantially affect the large scale behaviour, provided they are restricted to act only on smaller scales. By contrast, results from the Lorenz '96 simulations are superior when small scales are calculated on an emulated stochastic processor than when those small scales are parametrised. This suggests that inexact calculations at the small scale could reduce computation and power costs without adversely affecting the quality of the simulations. This would allow higher resolution models to be run at the same computational cost. © 2013 The Authors.

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