Integrated Co-Design of an Exascale Earth Mantle Modeling Framework

Research Goals

Mantle convection is a vital component of the Earth system. The relentless deformation taking place in the mantle by viscous creep has a far greater impact on our planet than might be immediately evident. Immense forces are at work in mantle convection cells: continuously reshaping Earth’s surface, the mantle provides the enormous driving forces necessary to support large scale horizontal motion, in the form of plate tectonics and associated earthquake and mountain building activity. At the same time the mantle induces substantial vertical motion in the form of dynamically maintained topography through lateral pressure gradients beneath tectonic plates. This vertical motion is perhaps the most spectacular manifestation of mantle convection - and its most defining and enduring impact upon the entire Earth system.

Highly scalable multigrid Stokes solver for buoyancy driven non-isothermal Stokes simulation.

Mantle convection modeling relies upon sophisticated computational modeling and is a classical grand challenge application requiring extremely large grids and many time steps to represent the system with spatial and temporal resolutions fine enough to allow for the use of earth-like physical parameters. The mantle is characterized by strongly variable (e.g., stress-, temperature-, and pressure-dependent) viscosities with local contrasts spanning several orders of magnitude and demanding adaptivity in order to capture localization phenomena.

TERRA-NEO is an ambitious project to construct a next generation mantle circulation model. The time has come to leap forward and to leverage the vast computing power that will become available with exascale computing to enable simulation based breakthrough results in our understanding of the solid Earth.


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