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Modelling the Winds of Jupiter and Saturn

Spotlight On:

Mathieu Dumberry
University of Alberta
Physics

Most of Mathieu Dumberry’s research is focused on furthering our understanding of the Earth’s interior. When he’s not studying fluid motion of our planet’s core, however, his interests expand to another environment – one just as dynamic but much further away.

“The origin of Jupiter and Saturn banded flow structures, with a large prograde equatorial jet and smaller jets of alternating direction at higher latitudes, are one of the most spectacular displays of fluid mechanics. However, they have yet to be fully explained,” says Dumberry, an Assistant Professor at the University of Alberta.

This is where WestGrid comes in. One of Dumberry’s PhD students, Daniel Laycock, is using WestGrid and Compute Canada HPC systems to run numerical simulations of zonal wind generation on Jupiter and Saturn. His high resolution models are simulating convection for a much more aggressive parameter regime than possible with traditional three dimensional (3D) simulations.

Preliminary results suggest that the quasi-geostrophic model Dumberry’s team is using can reproduce the banded zonal flows of Jupiter and Saturn at a fraction of the computational cost of a 3D simulation. This will eventually allow for an investigation of regions of parameter space currently inaccessible to full 3D simulations.

"Access to WestGrid and Compute Canada computing resources is essential for this type of research because the intense computing power required for our numerical simulations is simply not possible on local cluster resources. Moreover, not having to maintain our own local cluster means that we do not have to deal with technical hardware issues, not to mention the savings in research costs. This allows us to spend more time on theoretical developments to further improve our model," says Dumberry.