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Supercomputers Help New Orleans Prepare for Hurricane Isaac

Computerworld (08/29/12) Patrick Thibodeau

Researchers are using supercomputing centers at Louisiana State University (LSU) and the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) to enable emergency planners to model what will happen once Hurricane Isaac sends water into canals, levies, and neighborhoods.  The computer models also are being used to help determine the best staging areas for positioning people and supplies needed for the recovery, says LSU’s Robert Twilley.  The researchers are using an unstructured grid that enables them to concentrate the nodes in areas where the analysis is needed, such as near inland waterways and flood-prone areas.  This technique allows them to adjust the detail to where it is needed most.  The supercomputers being used can produce simulations with about 1.5 million nodes in just 90 minutes.  Meanwhile, University of Texas at Austin researchers have been running computer models at TACC to assess the impact of the storm surge on Texas.  Emergency planners “can look down at neighborhood scale and say ‘on this street along the levy we’re going to have water this high,’ and plan accordingly,” says University of Texas at Austin’s Casey Dietrich.

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