Engineering the Software for Understanding Climate Change

Date and Time: 
2010 Mar 3rd @ 10am
ML - Main Seminar Room
Steve Easterbrook, University of Toronto

This talk will examine the software development processes used to develop GCMs, drawing especially on a detailed study of the practices used at the UK Met Office. We compare the practices used to develop climate models to the development processes used for other types of software, including commercial and open source software. In a number of important aspects, the processes at the Met Office produce better quality software than many industry best practices. In particular, the current configuration management, testing and model validation processes result in very high code quality in the operational models.
However, several significant challenges remain. These include coordinating code changes being made by a large, multi-disciplinary scientific community, and adapting the existing processes to work with (multi-site) consortium and community modeling efforts. The process of defining model configurations and verifying their correctness is also a key weakness, and in the longer term, this limits the usability of datasets produced by the models. The talk will explore these challenges, and identify tools and techniques that may help.

Speaker Description: 

Steve Easterbrook is a professor of computer science at the University of Toronto. He received his Ph.D. (1991) in Computing from Imperial College in London (UK), and was a lecturer at the School of Cognitive and Computing Science, University of Sussex from 1990 to 1995. In 1995 he moved to the US to lead the research team at NASA´s Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) Facility in West Virginia, where he investigated software verification on the Space Shuttle Flight Software, the International Space Station, the Earth Observation System, and several planetary probes. He moved to the University of Toronto in 1999. His research interests range from modelling and analysis of complex software software systems to the socio-cognitive aspects of team interaction, including communication, coordination, and shared understanding in large software teams. He has served on the program committees for many conferences and workshops in Requirements Engineering and Software Engineering, and was general chair for RE'01 and program chair for ASE'06. In the summer of 2008, he was a visiting scientist at the UK Met Office Hadley Centre.

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