Climate Supercomputer is Super Emitter

The Yellowstone supercomputer, housed at the new NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center in Cheyenne. (Photo by Carlye Calvin of NCAR)

Climate scientists in Cheyenne, Wyoming, from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) have just brought online what they say is “the largest supercomputer in the world dedicated to geosciences.”

That is saying something, as NCAR already had an enormous supercomputer that it was using, and will continue to use, in Colorado. Other climate computers in use in the United States, at Stanford, Columbia, NASA, NOAA, and elsewhere, have vast computing power as well.

Somewhat ironically, the computational power comes at a price in moral standing, if one equates having a small carbon footprint with having a high moral ranking. That’s because supercomputers of this scale slurp up electricity at staggering rates. The climate scientists using them will tell you that the end justifies the means in their case, and they could be right. But there’s no getting away from the fact that these individuals are using more electricity than you could ever dream of doing.

You and a hundred friends could run around your town or city, let yourselves in unlocked doors every time you found one, and turn on all the lights, all the appliances, all the computers, all the televisions, and all the stereos, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, and you wouldn’t touch, you wouldn’t come close, to emitting what these scientists are now emitting, in the name of fighting climate change.

For those keeping track at home, NCAR’s new computer, requires 8 megawatts of power, on a continual basis to function properly, which is enough to power a town of 25,000 people, living three to a home.

Indeed, NCAR’s supercomputer was constructed in Wyoming specifically because the electricity in the state cost less than that in Colorado. Thus, dozens of scientists and their families moved across the state line because doing so would allow them to emit more carbon dioxide than even NCAR could afford in its original location.

Justifying such heavy carbon dioxide emission is hardly foreign to the major players in the climate change camp. United Nations scientists famously schedules the bulk of their meetings and conferences in faraway places where jet travel is not just an option, but a requirement. Being a top-tier climate scientists means that you’re going to fly, fly, and fly some more. Anyone fantasizing about telling Al Gore that such a system, whereby the ones most concerned about carbon footprints have some of the biggest footprints themselves, needs to stop right now. You’re not going to find the man anywhere that he might listen to your concerns face to face. Why? Because he’s airborne, encircling the globe again and again, as he enjoins you to change the light bulbs in your home, and do as he says and not as he does.

That said, even the former vice-president is a relative lightweight when it comes to massive fossil fuel use. For that kind of ongoing and ever-growing achievement, you need to look to the scientists at NCAR. If they’d bothered to read my book about climate change, they might have been able to shrink their carbon footprint dramatically, and in good conscience.

(Hat tip to Anthony Watts.)

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About Harold Ambler

I am a lifelong environmentalist. I started my journalism career at The New Yorker, where I worked as a copy editor. Since then, my own work has appeared in The New York Daily News, The National Review Online, The Atlantic Wire, The Huffington Post, The Berkeley Daily Planet, The Providence Journal, Brown Alumni Monthly, The Narragansett Times, Rhode Island Monthly, and Providence Business News.
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3 Responses to Climate Supercomputer is Super Emitter

  1. Pingback: Wyoming experiences that “giant sucking sound” as new coal fired climate supercomputer is turned on | Watts Up With That?

  2. Anymoose says:

    The local newspaper has been doing handstands over this project. What they are not saying is that the new super computer will be able to arrive at flaky conclusions faster than has been possible in the past. Wonder how much the new models for the computer will cost.

  3. Cheyenne is a lot shorter trip for the coal trains powering the Front Range down to New Mexico from the open pits of Wyoming . Saves petroleum .

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