Python & R on Cheyenne/Casper

I am lucky enough to have an access to NCAR’s super computing facilities - Cheyenne allows me to run CESM simulation with hundreds of cores while Casper streamlines my data processing, analysis, and visualization without wasting time to transfer large files. But, setting up the correct software to full deploy these machines are a pain in the neck. Here I would like to share how I set up my Jupyter environment to run R and Python on these two supercomputers.

What does NCAR say

NCAR has been putting a lot of efforts in modernizing their legendary NCL libraries and translating them into Python packages. In this guide, they lay out the easiest way to use Python with Jupyter on Casper.

The idea is to use module the default environment managing software on Casper to load the pre-bundled package:

module load ncarenv

Then, you can run

ncar_pylib -p 20200417

to check what packages are pre-installed. If you are happy with it, activate the default package library by invoking


It should allow you to use Python and other common packages including matplotlib.

Running Jupyter on Casper

NCAR is experimenting a simple way to run Jupyter using JupyterHub (Visit here for details) which can bypass using the Terminal.

Alternatively, the old-fashion IPython approach to run Jupyter can also be found here.

I wanted to include R

To include more packages and other software, I needed to create my own environment my_npl_clone. For that, I invoked,

ncar_pylib -c 20200417 /glade/work/$USER/my_npl_clone

to create a clone of the environment 20200417.

Activating the new environment with

ncar_pylib my_npl_clone

I also install Miniconda - a package management software for Python and R, which helps me to create R directories under my home dir and enables installing package without the root access right.

Installing Miniconda

In my $HOME directory, I first download the installation file for Miniconda,


then install it by invoking,


reviewing the documentation and set up the locations.

After the installation, I can see they modified my .bashrc. To use Miniconda, I had to run

source .bashrc

(This part may be a bit different for you depending on your settings. Feel free to contact me for details.)

For better file management, I created a new environment for R and named it r based on two preset library sets r-essentials and r-base,

conda create -n r -c conda-forge r-base=4.0.2

The conda environment is ready to use by running,

conda activate r

By adding R and my_npl_clone to Jupyter’s kernel, I invoked,

conda install -c r r-irkernel
ncar_pylib --kernel my_npl_clone

Both should be online for Jupyter.

Ka Ming FUNG
Ka Ming FUNG
Data Scientist

Data Scientist who’s interested in the interactions between food security, air pollution, environmental health, and climate change