The National Center for Atmospheric Research launched operations this month of one of the world’s most powerful and energy-efficient supercomputers, providing the nation with a major new tool to advance understanding of the atmospheric and related earth system sciences.

And two of the six initial projects that will run on the supercomputer, nicknamed “Cheyenne,” will be led by University of Wyoming researchers, according to a UW news release. These include a wind energy research project as well as one related to smoke and climate change.

“After these six projects run on Cheyenne in the next six weeks or so, they then want to release something about the science they uncovered,” says Bryan Shader, UW’s special assistant to the vice president for research and economic development, and professor of mathematics.

Dimitri Mavriplis, a UW professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, will head the wind energy research project, Shader says. UW researchers will use Cheyenne to simulate wind conditions on different scales, from across the continent down to the tiny space near a wind turbine blade, as well as the vibrations within an individual turbine itself.

Additionally, an NCAR-led project will create high-resolution, 3-D simulations of vertical and horizontal drafts to provide more information about winds over complex terrain. This type of research is critical as utilities seek to make wind farms as efficient as possible.

A smoke and global climate study, led by Xiaohong Liu, a UW professor of atmospheric science and the Wyoming Excellence Chair in Climate Science, will look into emissions from wildfires and how they affect stratocumulus clouds over the southeastern Atlantic Ocean.

This research is needed for a better understanding of the global climate system, as stratocumulus clouds, which cover 23 percent of Earth’s surface, play a key role in reflecting sunlight back into space.

Since the supercomputer came online during October 2012, allocations have been made to 71 UW research projects, 36 of which are still active, Shader says. Additionally, more than 2,200 scientists from more than 300 universities and federal labs have used its resources.