UK to pledge £1.2 billion for weather supercomputer

Date:18 February 2020 Author: Kyro Mitchell Tags:,

Two colossal storms, Ciara and Dennis, have caused hundreds of millions of pounds worth of property damage. The UK’s weather service, MET (Meteorological Office) have announced it will be spending £1.2 billion on a new climate supercomputer.

The new climate computer, which is yet to be built, will cost ten times more than its current counterpart, the Cray XC40. For that price tag, it will deliver far more accurate and timely weather forecast.

The new climate computer achieves this by creating a duplicate or ‘digital twin’ of our atmosphere. This is done by using data like air temperature and pressure, wind speeds, humidity, rainfall, snowfall, sea level, sea-ice, ocean currents and more. It then uses this information to create weather forecasts down to an area as small as 1 km across, whereas the Cray XC40 can only simulate an area of 10 kilometres across. Around large major airports like Heathrow or Southend airport, the new system will be able to focus down to an area of just 300m. Meaning emergency services can deploy mobile flood barriers and balance the energy grid far more accurately.

“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.” said the UK’s business and energy secretary, Alok Sharma.

Along with accurately predicting weather forecasts, the supercomputer will be used by universities for energy storage research, drug design, AI, and other types of research.

The installation process of the new supercomputer will go into service in early 2022 and will be 6 times more powerful than the Cray XC40. Five years later in 2027, it will receive an upgrade, bumping performance by a further three times, making it nearly 20 times more powerful.

“We’ll be streets ahead of anybody else,” said Penny Andersby, the Met’s chief executive. “Ultimately it’ll make a difference to every individual, every government department, every industry as people see forecasts becoming steadily better.”

Image: Pixabay

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