High-Performance Computing Innovates Seismic Hazard Research

Increasing Allotment of High-Performance-Computing

The SCEC Community Modeling Environment (SCEC/CME) Collaboration performs basic seismic hazard research using high-performance computing technologies. For over a decade, SCEC's Community Modeling Environment (CME) group has been innovating earth sciences research, under the direction of Phil Maechling, SCEC's IT Architect.

Earthquake scientists from all around the world have been able to mine and present data by collaborating with CME's integration of high-performance computers (HPCs). HPCs allow SCEC scientists to quantify and express data that would normally take years on a desktop machine.

SCEC's increasing allotment of hours on HPCs express its success in achieving goals consistent with SCEC's mission: to save lives and reduce damage.

CME researchers develop structural models of California faults and geology, develop and validate rupture physics models, perform large-scale regional wave propagation simulations, collaborate with engineers studying engineering response to ground motions, and integrate computational improvements into probabilistic seismic hazard calculations.

Some notable products of HPC usage by SCEC include the following:

The 2011 M8 Animation

Animation of simulated ground motion after a possible magnitude 8 earthquake on the San Andreas fault, showing ground shaking throughout southern California for more than 75 seconds after the rupture initiates near Parkfield. The Ventura, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino areas continue to shake due to reverberation within their underlying soft sedimentary basins.

"Petascale simulations such as this one are needed to understand the rupture and wave dynamics of the largest earthquakes, at shaking frequencies required to engineer safe structures," said Thomas Jordan, Director of the Southern California Earthquake Center.

The 2008 ShakeOut Scenario Animation

Dr. Lucy Jones of the U.S. Geological Survey led a group of over 300 scientists, engineers, and others to study the likely consequences of this potential earthquake in great detail. The result is the ShakeOut Earthquake Scenario. The animation presented is an expression of ground motion simulation if a M7.8 earthquake were to occur along the southern section of the San Andreas fault.

The 2005 Puente Hills Fault Animation

Potential earthquakes on the Puente Hills fault beneath the Los Angeles area could result in 3,000 to 18,000 fatalities, 142,000 to 735,000 displaced households, and more than $250 billion in total damages, according to U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC) research.

UCERF3 (Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast)

The third Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast, or "UCERF3" (http://www.WGCEP.org/UCERF3), provides authoritative estimates of the magnitude, location, and likelihood of earthquake fault rupture throughout the state. A “grand inversion” was developed for UCERF3 to solve the rate of all possible earthquake ruptures in the interconnected California fault system. This new system-level approach also draws upon a broader range of observations to arrive at the solution. Calculating the UCERF3 “grand inversion” results required the use of supercomputers to cover a broad range of models (>5,000), each considering more than 250,000 fault-based earthquake possibilities (including multi-fault ruptures) throughout California. The same calculation would take more than 8 years on a single desktop computer.


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