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NOAA Announces Huge Leap in Supercomputing

20 Feb 2020, 4:27 pm

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday that it will take its next big step in predicting the weather. The commerce agency will do this by beefing up the electronics that run our weather models called, supercomputers.

In a media release Thursday, NOAA laid out the timeline the next two supercomputers to help run our day-to-day weather forecasts, but also climate modeling. The upgrade includes two new Cray computeres, each with a 12 petaflop capacity. These will be housed in Manassas, Virginia and Phoenix, Arizona. These supercomputers will join existing ones in West Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi and Colorado which already have a combined capacity of 16 petaflops. This increase in high-performance computing will triple the capacity and double the storage, says NOAA.

NOAA also mentioned its vision of EPIC, the Earth Prediction Innovation Center. EPIC allows NOAA scientists to partner with university and industry scientists/engineers to advance weather prediction. Basically in short, this lowers the barrier between government scientists and private sector scientists in order for more experts to give their advice on how to make the best weather model possible.

Why is this important to you? It’s important because this will likely mean even more accurate weather forecasts for you, plus the ability to accurately forecast the weather farther out in time. You’ll be able to rely on the weather forecast even more than you do now.

These supercomputers run an incredible amount of data through their systems daily. Weather forecasting is broken down into numbers. There are advanced numerical equations for how our atmosphere works. These equations are then run through a certain time period, lets say ten days, and the resulting data is what you usually see on your weather app.

USA’s largest weather model is the GFS, or the Global Forecast System. You probably hear about this model via meteorologists comparing it to the NAM (North American Model) or the European (ECMWF). Today’s announcement further solidified NOAA’s mission to make the GFS the best model in the world.

This will take a little time to work the kinks out. NOAA says it will implement the model upgrades by early 2022 after a period of code migration and testing.

For the full media release from NOAA regarding this story, click/tap this sentence.

Cover image credit: NOAA

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