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UNC computer, marine scientists collaborate to predict flow of toxic waters from Katrina

In the immediate wake of Hurricane Katrina, scientists and research centers from across the country came together to generate information on the contaminated floodwaters and offer it to hazardous materials experts and public health officials.

In a matter of hours, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Marine Sciences Program and Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI), together with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), played a key role in that effort by providing rapid-response computing and modeling capability.

Floodwaters containing organic and chemical pollutants such as sewage and oil still cover swaths of Mississippi and Louisiana. To aid cleanup, researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Coast Survey Development Laboratory (CSDL), along with UNC faculty, have been developing forecasts that will predict the circulation of those foul waters.

A group of researchers, including Drs. Richard Luettich and Brian Blanton, marine scientists in UNC's College of Arts and Sciences, has developed a three-dimensional computer program that can be used to model water levels and flow. This program, "ADCIRC," is what experts call a hydrodynamic code. Previously, the code was used largely for after-the-fact analyses of coastal circulation, but researchers now believe it can help produce answers during a crisis.

Blanton and Luettich, assistant research professor and professor of marine sciences, respectively, knew that to simulate the required 60 days of water velocity and water surface elevation they would need more computational power then they had at the university. They asked UNC's Dr. Daniel A. Reed for help -- based on their NOAA--funded collaboration with RENCI -- to establish a computational system with Web access for rapid-response forecasting to severe weather.

Reed is Chancellor's Eminent professor and vice chancellor for information technology at UNC. North Caro
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Source:University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


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