Forecasting system gives the Navy plenty of lead time to protect fleet

Forecasting system gives the Navy plenty of lead time to protect fleet

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

Ocean and weather forecast modeling software running under Unix on supercomputers let Navy officials give colleagues five days' notice that Hurricane Floyd would make landfall in the Carolinas.

The early warning gave the Atlantic Fleet sailors just enough time to move more than 92 ships out of harm's way, minimizing damage to ships and docks, Navy officials said.

By Sept. 10, Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center officials in Monterey, Calif., notified their Atlantic Fleet counterparts in Norfolk, Va., that Floyd would hit North Carolina or South Carolina, said Paul Moersdorf, scientific and technical director at the Monterey center.

'Right from the beginning, our models showed that the hurricane wouldn't hit land at Georgia or Florida,' Moersdorf said. Two days later'three days before landfall'center officials forecast that Floyd would come ashore in North Carolina.'


The center sends 3-D depictions of wave and wind forecasts to Defense Department agencies via broadband links and across the Non-Classified IP Router Network and Secret IP Router Network, Moersdorf said.

High wind and storm surges can cause extreme damage to a ship and adjoining piers when the ship is moored, said Vice Adm. William J. Fallon, the Atlantic Fleet commander in Norfolk.

'Ships are much better able to weather a storm of this magnitude when they are under way and free to maneuver out of the path of the storm,' he said.

The Monterey center runs two SGI Cray C-90 and two Cray J-90 supercomputers running Unix Cray OS 10.0 for modeling, Moersdorf said. A 24-processor Sun Microsystems Enterprise 10000 supercomputer, two Sun Enterprise 4500 midrange servers with eight processors each and two Enterprise 3500s handle the communications requirements and house the front-end database. The Sun computers run SunSoft Solaris 7.1.

The Cray J-90s serve as intermediaries between the C-90s and the Sun computers for processing an internal legacy database, said Mike Clancy, chief of the center's Models and Data Department. Some C-90s have 16 processors and can run at peak speeds of 16 billion floating-point operations per second. The center also uses 70 multiprocessor Sun workstations to access and process weather data.


During Floyd's run in the Caribbean and up the East Coast, the center provided backup service to the National Hurricane Center, which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service and is based in Miami.

The Navy moved about 80 Atlantic Fleet ships and submarines in the Norfolk area beginning Sept. 15.


An additional 12 vessels were deployed from the naval station in Mayport, Fla., starting two days earlier.

The USS John F. Kennedy Carrier Battle Group and USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group were scheduled to start six-month deployments on Sept. 17, so they just moved their plans forward a few days. Most of the other ships and submarines sailed out to the open ocean outside of areas with 30-knot winds, Moersdorf said.

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