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Met Office Promises More Reliable Forecasts Thanks To New £97m Supercomputer

Michael Moore joined TechWeek Europe in January 2014 as a trainee before graduating to Reporter later that year. He covers a wide range of topics, including but not limited to mobile devices, wearable tech, the Internet of Things, and financial technology.

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New Cray CX40 system will be 13 times more powerful than its predecessor

The Met Office has announced it is spending £97m on a new weather-predicting supercomputer, which it hopes will signal the end of spotty forecasting.

Part of a move to make the UK a “world-leader in weather and climate science”, the new supercomputer will be 13 times more powerful than the current system used by the Met Office and will have 120,000 times more memory than a top-end smartphone.

The new High Performance Computer (HPC) will be able to give hourly updates on the latest changes in our weather, and should also be able to improve the current status of forecasting out to the coming months, rather than days or weeks.

It will also provide highly detailed information for precise geographical areas, which should help in preparation for extreme weather events such as floods and heavy snowfall. The ability to produce high resolution models with a spatial resolution of 300m will also help to track and predict the impact of small scale, high impact weather, such as heavy fog or high winds preventing airplanes from taking off.

uk weather flooding ©ronfromyork/shutterstock.com‘Step change’

The 140-tonne Cray XC40 supercomputer, which will be based at the Met Office’s headquarters in Exeter Science Park, will be able to perform more than 16,000 trillion calculations per second, making it one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world when fully installed.

The first phase of the HPC will be operational in September 2015, which the system reaching full capacity in 2017.

“We are very excited about this new investment in UK science,” said Met Office chief executive Rob Varley. “It will lead to a step change in weather forecasting and climate prediction and give us the capability to strengthen our collaborations with partners in the South West, UK and around the world.

The new supercomputer, together with improved observations, science and modelling, will deliver better forecasts and advice to support UK business, the public and government. It will help to make the UK more resilient to high impact weather and other environmental risks.”

Overall, the Treasury believes that the benefit of the new supercomputer could hit around £2bn thanks to its ability to improve preparation and contingency plans to better protect homes and businesses.

“This £97m investment is a crucial part of the government’s wider drive to make the UK the best place in the world to do science and research,” said chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander.”

“By bringing world-class technology to the south west, we are also boosting regional investment and expertise, creating a stronger economy and fairer society.”

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