Journal cover Journal topic
Geoscientific Model Development An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Geosci. Model Dev., 9, 3393-3412, 2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Model evaluation paper
21 Sep 2016
Towards European-scale convection-resolving climate simulations with GPUs: a study with COSMO 4.19
David Leutwyler1, Oliver Fuhrer3, Xavier Lapillonne2,3, Daniel Lüthi1, and Christoph Schär1 1Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
2Center for Climate Systems Modeling C2SM, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
3Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology, MeteoSwiss, Zurich, Switzerland
Abstract. The representation of moist convection in climate models represents a major challenge, due to the small scales involved. Using horizontal grid spacings of O(1km), convection-resolving weather and climate models allows one to explicitly resolve deep convection. However, due to their extremely demanding computational requirements, they have so far been limited to short simulations and/or small computational domains. Innovations in supercomputing have led to new hybrid node designs, mixing conventional multi-core hardware and accelerators such as graphics processing units (GPUs). One of the first atmospheric models that has been fully ported to these architectures is the COSMO (Consortium for Small-scale Modeling) model.

Here we present the convection-resolving COSMO model on continental scales using a version of the model capable of using GPU accelerators. The verification of a week-long simulation containing winter storm Kyrill shows that, for this case, convection-parameterizing simulations and convection-resolving simulations agree well. Furthermore, we demonstrate the applicability of the approach to longer simulations by conducting a 3-month-long simulation of the summer season 2006. Its results corroborate the findings found on smaller domains such as more credible representation of the diurnal cycle of precipitation in convection-resolving models and a tendency to produce more intensive hourly precipitation events. Both simulations also show how the approach allows for the representation of interactions between synoptic-scale and meso-scale atmospheric circulations at scales ranging from 1000 to 10 km. This includes the formation of sharp cold frontal structures, convection embedded in fronts and small eddies, or the formation and organization of propagating cold pools. Finally, we assess the performance gain from using heterogeneous hardware equipped with GPUs relative to multi-core hardware. With the COSMO model, we now use a weather and climate model that has all the necessary modules required for real-case convection-resolving regional climate simulations on GPUs.

Citation: Leutwyler, D., Fuhrer, O., Lapillonne, X., Lüthi, D., and Schär, C.: Towards European-scale convection-resolving climate simulations with GPUs: a study with COSMO 4.19, Geosci. Model Dev., 9, 3393-3412,, 2016.
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
The representation of moist convection (thunderstorms and rain showers) in climate models represents a major challenge, as this process is usually approximated due to the lack of appropriate computational resolution. Climate simulations using horizontal resolution of O(1 km) allow one to explicitly resolve deep convection and thus allow for an improved representation of the water cycle. We present a set of such simulations covering the European scale using a climate model enabled for GPUs.
The representation of moist convection (thunderstorms and rain showers) in climate models...