West Virginia lands NOAA's latest supercomputer

New machine will add to climate research effort

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this week announced plans to build a state-of-the-art supercomputer in Fairmont, W.Va., as part of NOAA’s expanding program to more accurately study weather and climate.

The supercomputer, being paid for with $27.6 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will be housed at NOAA’s Environmental Security Computing Center. It’s seen as both a boon to NOAA’s climate program and north-central West Virginia’s high-tech reputation, Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The center was established by NOAA and the General Services Administration, which took out a 20-year lease on the 54,000 square-foot property. Renovation work is expected to begin in January, with completion scheduled for fall 2011.

NOAA has stepped up its climate modeling, in part fueled by $170 million in stimulus funding.

“Demands for more detailed climate and weather information continue to grow from all sectors of society, so NOAA must invest in technology now to meet future needs,” said NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco said at the ceremony. “This capacity is part of a suite of climate services NOAA is developing that will help individuals, communities and businesses to make informed decisions in a changing climate.”

NOAA recently opened another new supercomputer dedicated to climate research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. The 260-teraflop Cray XT6 machine has been nicknamed Gaea, which translates as "Mother Earth" in Greek mythology, according to Frank Munger’s Atomic City Underground blog. NOAA expects to upgrade Gaea to petascale capability, Munger writes.

No word yet on a nickname for West Virginia’s forthcoming supercomputer.

 

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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