supercomputer (NOAA)

Supercomputers power next-gen weather forecasting

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has announced plans to beef up its weather forecasting systems with the addition of two Dell supercomputing systems in its Reston, Va., and Orlando, Fla., data centers later this month.

Used for monitoring and forecasting weather events including blizzards and hurricanes, the systems' upgrade will add 2.8 petaflops of speed, increasing NOAA’s total operational computing speed to 8.4 petaflops -- or 4.2 petaflops per site, according to agency officials. When the Dell machines are combined with NOAA's existing IBM and Cray supercomputers, the system will be able to process 8 quadrillion calculations per second, putting it among the 30 fastest in the world.

The additions to the systems will result in a 60 percent increase in storage capacity, which will allow for more of the weather and climate data to be collected and processed for use in models, the agency said.

This new computing power will help the National Weather Service  transition next year to a new Global Forecast System that delivers more frequent forecasts, better resolution. It will also allow NOAA to model 16 days out compared to its current 10-day abilities. The Global Forecast System will be in “research mode” during the next hurricane season.

The new supercomputers will allow NOAA's atmospheric and oceanic models to run as one system, helping “forecasters to more readily identify interaction between the two and reducing the number of operational models,” the agency said. The upgrade will also support the creation of a new seasonal forecasting systems.

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a reporter/producer at GCN.

Before joining GCN, Leonard worked as a local reporter for The Smithfield Times in southeastern Virginia. In his time there he wrote about town council meetings, local crime and what to do if a beaver dam floods your back yard. Over the last few years, he has spent time at The Commonwealth Times, The Denver Post and WTVR-CBS 6. He is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he received the faculty award for print and online journalism.

Leonard can be contacted at or follow him on Twitter @Matt_Lnrd.

Click here for previous articles by Leonard.

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