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UK Met Office ploughs £1.2bn into record-breaking weather and climate supercomputer

Written by Mon 17 Feb 2020

Arriving in 2022, new supercomputer will be the most powerful of its kind

As the UK battles extreme weather conditions for the second week running, the Met Office has revealed plans to build the world’s most powerful weather and climate supercomputer.

The country’s national weather service announced it will spend £1.2 billion over 10 years building the supercomputer, which will replace the Cray XC40 system built for £97 million in 2014.

The new supercomputer will be deployed to improve rainfall predictions and airport forecasting. Data collected by the system will be used to more accurately predict storms, identify effective flood defence locations and predict changes to the global climate.

“Over the last 30 years, new technologies have meant more accurate weather forecasting, with storms being predicted up to five days in advance,” said Alok Sharma, business and energy secretary and COP26 president.

“Come rain or shine, our significant investment for a new supercomputer will further speed up weather predictions, helping people be more prepared for weather disruption from planning travel journeys to deploying flood defences.”

When the first phase of the new system launches in 2022, it will be six times as powerful as its predecessor. A second phase, scheduled for 2028, will be a further three times as powerful. Cray XC40 is in the top 50 of the world’s most powerful computer systems and boasts 16 petaflops of power.

“This investment will ultimately provide earlier, more accurate warning of severe weather, the information needed to build a more resilient world in a changing climate and help support the transition to a low-carbon economy across the UK,” said Professor Penny Endersby, Met Office chief executive.

“It will help the UK to continue to lead the field in weather and climate science and services, working collaboratively to ensure that the benefits of our work help Government, the public and industry make better decisions to stay safe and thrive.”

In a separate announcement, the government revealed plans to spend £30m developing seven high-performance computing services run by UK universities, including Durham University and the University of Edinburgh.

ARCHER2, a 28 petaflops supercomputer located at the University of Edinburgh, is expected to go live in May.

Written by Mon 17 Feb 2020


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