NOAA finishes supercomputer

Stratus to extend weather forecasts

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has completed building a weather-predicting supercomputer, the agency announced today. The system, which took nine years to build and cost $180 million, will help NOAA improve its weather forecasts and extend warning times for oncoming hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, winter storms and other forms of severe weather.

“This new technology will provide us with more sophisticated models of the earth’s land, ocean and atmosphere, giving meteorologists better accuracy and precision in both long-term and short-term forecasting,” said Jack Hayes, director of NOAA’s National Weather Service, in a statement. “More accurate weather forecasts allow the National Weather Service to warn individual citizens and whole communities about impending dangerous weather well in advance so they can take action to protect lives and property.”

The system, called Stratus, is based on IBM Power 575-based nodes and is capable of executing 69.7 trillion calculations per second, which is about four times the speed of the system now undertaking weather-forecasting duties for the agency. IBM is also providing gear for a back-up system, called Cirrus. Stratus is located in an IBM facility in Gaithersburg, Md., and Cirrus resides in a NASA-managed facility in Fairmont, W.V.

Stratus will digest data on temperature, wind, precipitation, atmospheric pressure, and other oceanographic and satellite information taken from the ground, air, sea and space.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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