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Evans featured at SIAM 2023 event

According to Katherine Evans of the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, applied mathematics and supercomputing are essential tools for tracking water flow and weather patterns around the world. She recently spoke at the 2023 Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, or SIAM, Computational Science and Engineering event in Amsterdam.

The SIAM event featured speakers covering topics from computer science and smart power grids to biology and climate change, all with a central focus on using mathematics to solve the world’s most complex challenges.

Evans is the director of ORNL's Computational Sciences and Engineering Division and serves as the laboratory's research point of contact for DOE's Advanced Scientific Computing Research program and outgoing chair for SIAM's Activity Group on Mathematics of Planet Earth. 

At SIAM, Evans discussed the multivariate ways in which our planet experiences climate change and the grand challenge of understanding, adapting to and mitigating its effects. She explained how applied mathematics is being used to prepare for the challenges of a warming world, including the extreme storms and droughts brought about by changing water patterns. She primarily focused on how math enables the study of water flow around the globe and the precision tracking of individual cloud droplets, continent-sized weather events, large systems of ocean currents and ice sheet flow.

Evans full remarks at SIAM 2023

ORNL's Kate Evans, director of the laboratory's Computational Sciences and Engineering Division, speaks at the SIAM event in Amsterdam on how mathematics is critical to solving the problems presented by climate change.

Researchers need to solve billions of mathematical equations to calculate the state of these complex systems at a given point in time. Understanding the systems’ dynamics and using them to predict future events requires many times more such calculations.

Climate researchers like Evans are using ORNL’s advanced supercomputing capabilities to accommodate this massive computational load. Using the Summit and Frontier supercomputers — respectively capable of 200 quadrillion and more than a quintillion calculations per second — scientists can better predict climate trends years in the coming years, and by extension help policymakers better prepare for the future.

These calculations can only be done accurately with the help of an interdisciplinary team of computer scientists, climate experts and mathematicians. As Evans explains, “mathematics can bring physics, chemistry, biology and computer science to life, using models and supercomputers to understand weather and the climate. Using math to understand our world means that we can identify the problem before it’s too late to address.”

Evans was one of six invited speakers at the SIAM event and addressed more than 2,000 attendees. The week-long conference drew applied and industrial mathematicians, computational scientists and engineers to Amsterdam for a tour of the cutting-edge research taking place at institutions around the world.

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for DOE’s Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. DOE’s Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit— Galen Fader