Publications by Tim Palmer

On the use of scale-dependent precision in Earth System modelling

Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society John Wiley & Sons Ltd 143 (2017) 897-908

T Thornes, P Düben, T Palmer

Increasing the resolution of numerical models has played a large part in improving the accuracy of weather and climate forecasts in recent years. Until now, this has required the use of ever more powerful computers, the energy costs of which are becoming increasingly problematic. It has therefore been proposed that forecasters switch to using more efficient ‘reduced precision’ hardware capable of sacrificing unnecessary numerical precision to save costs. Here, an extended form of the Lorenz ‘96 idealized model atmosphere is used to test whether more accurate forecasts could be produced by lowering numerical precision more at smaller spatial scales in order to increase the model resolution. Both a scale-dependent mixture of single- and half-precision – where numbers are represented with fewer bits of information on smaller spatial scales – and ‘stochastic processors’ – where random ‘bit-flips’ are allowed for small-scale variables – are emulated on conventional hardware. It is found that high-resolution parametrized models with scale-selective reduced precision yield better short-term and climatological forecasts than lower resolution parametrized models with conventional precision for a relatively small increase in computational cost. This suggests that a similar approach in real-world models could lead to more accurate and efficient weather and climate forecasts.

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