Each year, from a few hundred to tens of thousands of deaths, are attributed to the catastrophic effects of significant earthquakes. Apart from the ground shaking, earthquake hazards include landslides, dam ruptures, flooding, and worse if the sea surface is suddenly displaced during an earthquake, it can trigger a deadly tsunami.
Although earthquakes can’t be prevented, and the processes involving the Earth’s tectonic plates that make up its crust and upper-level mantle can provide the scientists with clues about the possible effects of these impending disasters.
A professor, Tsuyoshi Ichimura at the Earthquake Research Institute (ERI) at the University of Tokyo (UTokyo), is studying the deformation of tectonic plates to aid physics-based forecasting of natural disasters such as earthquakes. Accurately, the team is simulating a tectonic plate boundary spanning from Vancouver, British Columbia, down to Northern California. At this boundary — called the Cascadia Subduction Zone — the coastal Explorer, Juan de Fuca, and Gorda plates move east and shift underneath the North American Plate, a process known as subduction that can trigger large-magnitude earthquakes and volcanic activity.
The team recently extended and optimized one of its scientific codes for the world’s most powerful and smartest supercomputer for open science, the IBM AC922 Summit at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility of Energy Office of Science User Facility located at DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).
By transforming the Unstructured fiNite element ImpliCit sOlver with stRuctured grid coarseNing (UNICORN) code into an artificial intelligence (AI)-like algorithm, the team ran UNICORN at 416 petaflops and gained a 75-fold speedup from a previous state-of-the-art solver by fully leveraging the power of the Tensor Cores on Summit’s Volta GPUs. Tensor Cores are specialized processing units that rapidly carry out matrix multiplications and additions using mixed precision calculations.