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Earth Science Computing Center Dedicated at Stanford

With the backing of Sun Microsystems, other Silicon Valley information technology firms and oil companies, Stanford University last month unveiled the Center for Computational Earth and Environmental Science (CEES). An extension of Stanford’s School of Earth Sciences, the center combines an interdisciplinary research program and a new computing facility. CEES is dedicated to solving problems in geosciences, such as climate change, by harnessing massive computing power for simulation, analysis and prediction of earth systems. The expectation is that the center’s research will advance earthquake detection, oil exploration and predictions of the effects of global warming, say Stanford officials.

“Our mission is to enhance the capacity for large-scale computational research for Earth and environmental science,” says CEES Director Jerry M. Harris, a professor of geophysics in the School of Earth Sciences. “A driving force for this is the fact that, here at Stanford, we have some of the world’s best scientists, and across the street in Silicon Valley are some of the world’s best computer designers and builders.”

CEES is a partnership of Stanford, the U.S. Geological Survey and firms such as Chevron, Cisco Systems and British Petroleum. Cisco Systems has donated $250,000 to CEES. As a founding organization, Sun has contributed $3 million in equipment and cash to the center’s new computing facility, including the SPARC-based Sun Fire servers and the Solaris operating system.

“Working with the energy sector for over 20 years, Sun is helping bridge the gap between academia and industry and by supporting the CEES. This provides a unique and innovative architecture for functional analysis of very complex applications used in Earth and environmental science,” says Kim Jones, vice president of global education and research at Sun.

Stanford alumnus Scott McNealy, chairman of Sun Microsystems, and other Silicon Valley leaders joined Stanford President John Hennessy in dedicating the center, which is housed at the university’s Mitchell Earth Sciences building.

“If you want to solve big problems — important, critical problems to human society and to our environment — you need big computers,” said Hennessy at the dedication ceremony.

— Ronald Roach

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