NOAA forecasts more accurate weather predictions with supercomputer upgrades

NOAA forecasts more accurate weather predictions

Most Americans rely on weather forecasts to provide insight into their daily commutes or impending storms.  But the timeliness and precision of these forecasts is imperative for airline travel, agribusiness and disaster preparedness. In order to continue to provide accurate, up-to-the-minute weather reports, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced it will upgrade its supercomputers, which are essential for accurate forecasting.

Working with IBM and Cray Inc., headquartered in Seattle and serving as the subcontractor, NOAA’s two supercomputers will increase from 2.5 petaflops, to 5 petaflops by October of 2015 – an increase almost 10 times their previous capacity. 

“By increasing our overall capacity, we’ll be able to process quadrillions of calculations per second that all feed into our forecasts and predictions,” said NOAA’s National Weather Service Director Louis Uccellini, “This boost in processing power is essential as we work to improve our numerical prediction models for more accurate and consistent forecasts required to build a weather ready nation.”

In the meantime, NOAA hopes to increase the capacity of its supercomputers by three times to at least 0.776 petaflops within the next month in order to operate upgraded versions of certain systems. 

For example, the Global Forecast System – a weather forecasting model that can predict weather, winds and precipitation – and the Global Ensemble Forecast System – which aggregates forecasts from several models – will both be capable of increasing their resolutions for more accurate predictions. 

IBM was awarded a contract a few years ago to increase capacity of NOAA’s supercomputers. At the time, IBM’s proposed system improvements included using iDataPlex servers, which include a  half-depth design to provide power and cooling while optimizing density and performance.  Additionally IBM sought to include its General Parallel File System to allow for high-speed file access.

“These supercomputing upgrades will significantly improve our ability to translate data into actionable information, which in turn will lead to more timely, accurate and reliable forecasts,” said Kathryn Sullivan, NOAA’s administrator.

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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