If you have been following the hilariously misnamed "Climate-gate" you may be familiar with Professor Phil Jones's use of the word "trick." While right-wing bloggers have tried to misconstrue the word to imply that climate scientists are somehow "tricking" the public, in reality it was used to reference the extremely complex task of modeling the Earth's climate.

The scientist in question had developed a mathematical "trick" that reduced the computing time necessary to render a specific mathematical equation. This fiasco points to an important fact -- modeling the climate is very, very tricky business.

The intricate web of factors the makes for our ever-changing climate -- from lunar magnetism and solar flares to ocean currents, active fault lines and yes, man-made greenhouse gases -- requires trillions and trillions of calculations per second performed by supercomputers testing various scenarios in rapid succession to determine climate predictions with a high degree of probability.

Until now, climate researchers have been somewhat limited in their computing power, thus requiring statistical shortcuts like the aforementioned "trick." But thanks to a $20 million grant from the Recovery Act, climate scientists now have a computer that is up to the challenge. With a record-breaking 1 quadrillion, 759 trillion calculations per second, Jaguar will help unlock the secrets of global climate change and more.

The computer will also be used to test trillions of strains of algae and other organisms for the production of biofuels, advanced energy and materials productions, and even the search for the origin of the universe.

ORNL director Thom Mason explains:

The purpose of these machines is to enable the scientific community to tackle problems of such complexity that they demand a well tuned combination of the best hardware, optimized software, and a community of researchers dedicated to revealing new phenomena through modeling and simulations. With increased computational capability, the scientific research community is able to obtain results faster, understand better the complexities involved, and provide critical information to policy-makers.
World's fastest computer to investigate climate
Oak Ridge, Tenn., is now home to Jaguar, the world's fastest computer. Its primary mission: To create the most sophisticated climate predictions to date.