Lab Canada

Western and IBM to map movements in the Earth’s deep interior

London, ON May 12, 2003 Researchers at the University of Western Ontario say they will be closer to solving mysteries deep below the Earth’s surface, thanks to a powerful IBM Linux cluster.

The Intel-based IBM eServer will deliver detailed images of heat and mass movements deep within the Earth’s interior. It is designed to aid in the research of plate tectonics which will help understand the connections between a wide variety of natural phenomena such as: mountain formation, earthquakes, the geographic variations in the depth of the world’s oceans and heat flow coming from Earth’s interior, changes in the Earth’s gravitational pull at different locations on it’s surface, and the horizontal movements or ‘drift’ of the continents over millions of years.

The Linux cluster will allow earth sciences researchers at Western to simulate geophysical models of the Earth’s constantly moving inner structure for the first time. Evidence from numerous sources, including variations in the Earth’s rotation and gravity field; differences in seismic waves; and surface geological features, will be gathered and processed to generate computer models of the Earth’s internal dynamics.

"This detailed geophysical research requires an extremely powerful and efficient computing infrastructure," says Alessandro Forte, professor in the department of Earth sciences at Western. "IBM’s cluster will provide us with the speed, efficiency, and data storage space we need to continue leading the way in global plate tectonic research."

Infinity Technologies has customized the cluster to Western’s specifications to meet the application’s large memory requirement. Running Red Hat Linux, the IBM cluster provides Forte’s team with maximum usage of computer resources has a low overhead cost and increases program efficiency. The resulting computational power allows Western researchers to model the internal dynamics of the Earth at a much faster rate than they could before.