A team of researchers at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) and the Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering at the University of California, San Diego, has developed a highly scalable computer code that promises to dramatically cut both research times and energy costs in simulating seismic hazards throughout California and elsewhere.

The team developed the scalable GPU (graphical processing units) accelerated code for use in earthquake engineering and disaster management through regional earthquake simulations at the petascale level. The accelerated code, which was done using GPUs as opposed to CPUs, or central processing units, is based on a widely-used wave propagation code called AWP-ODC. The research team restructured the code to exploit high performance and throughput, memory locality, and overlapping of computation and communication, which made it possible to scale the code linearly to more than 8,000 GPU accelerators.

The team performed GPU-based benchmark simulations of the 5.4 magnitude earthquake that occurred in July 2008 below Chino Hills, near Los Angeles. The benchmarks, run on the Titan supercomputer, showed a five-fold speedup over the heavily optimized CPU code on the same system, and a sustained performance of one petaflop per second (one quadrillion calculations per second) on the tested system. A previous benchmark of the AWP-ODC code reached only 200 teraflops (trillions of calculations per second) of sustained performance.

By delivering a significantly higher level of computational power, researchers can provide more accurate earthquake predictions with increased physical reality and resolution, with the potential of saving lives and minimizing property damage.

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