NOAA unveils Frost and Snow for summer

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration today unveiled the agency's new workhorse supercomputer for predicting the nation's daily weather.

The IBM SP parallel supercomputer, more than twice as fast as the system it replaced, will let NOAA forecasters predict hurricane paths five days in advance instead of three days, said Louis W. Uccellini, director of NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Prediction.

In the works for the past 12 months, the new NOAA supercomputer resides at an IBM remote-hosting center in Gaithersburg, Md. It exchanges data with other NOAA weather systems in Maryland via a 155-Mbps asynchronous transfer mode network.

The leasing arrangement lets NOAA allocate its funds in favor of more computing power instead of maintenance and staffing, Uccellini said.

The IBM SP, which has a total theoretical peak speed of 11.4 trillion operations per second, is partitioned into two sections. The one dubbed Frost generates the operational weather forecasts seen in the media. The other, named Snow, will test refinements to the models that predict weather and climate changes.

NOAA and IBM officials finished debugging Frost and Snow in May, and Frost has been providing the nation's weather forecasts for the past three weeks, Uccellini said.

The road map for NOAA's nine-year contract with IBM calls for boosting the weather agency's supercomputing capacity to a theoretical maximum of 100 TFLOPS by the end of the decade, said Dave Turek, IBM's vice president of deep computing.

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