Met Office gets £30 million supercomputer

The IBM system P supercomputer will boost the Met Office's processing power.

weather

The Met Office has unveiled its shiny new supercomputer, which it said will help improve weather forecasting for the nation.

The new Power6 system P computer from IBM features over a petaflop of power, ranking it in the top 20 for high performance computers around the world. The last system the Met Office had was from NEC, and featured 5.4 teraflops of processing power meaning the new system is 27 times as powerful.

Speaking to IT PRO, the Met Office's chief technology officer Dr Stephen Foreman explained that the higher processing power would let forecasters localise their predictions. At the moment, they can focus as close as a county; with the new IBM, they'll have the necessary data to predict at a city or district level. "It will provide that much more local detail," he said.

"It gives us the opportunity to put more detail and accuracy into the forecasts," Dr Foreman said. "It's not just about better day to day, but it will also help us prepare for severe weather events, like the floods a couple years ago."

While the supercomputer was unveiled this week, it's not up and running yet. Data transfer will take until August, while improvements in weather forecasts will be noticeable to the public this winter.

The computer will also help the Met Office's research into climate change. "It gives us the opportunity to move us from asking whether climate change is taking place which it is to how it will affect us," Dr Foreman explained.

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