NOAA Activates Newest Climate and Weather Supercomputers

NOAA announced today (Jan 31) that it has activated its newest weather and climate supercomputers, increasing the computational might used for the nation’s climate and weather forecasts by 320 percent. The new IBM machines process 14 trillion calculations per second at maximum performance and ingest more than 240 million global observations daily.
NOAA image of IBM supercomputers used for climate and weather forecasts.The primary and back up systems, ranked 36th and 37th in the world on the Top 500 list of the world’s fastest computers, will enable the NOAA National Weather Service to deliver more products, with greater accuracy, at longer-lead times. These supercomputers will consume more data and generate highly advanced models that may enable meteorologists to begin making significant inroads in cracking hurricane intensity forecast challenges.

These machines also will process data from Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate (COSMIC) satellites, a series of six satellites launched in 2006 that will provide NOAA National Weather Service forecasters with better understanding of jet streams and related storm systems—keys for the early prediction of storms like those that affected Denver and the Pacific Northwest in December and January.

“Better physics, better models, better data, and faster and more powerful supercomputing are the foundation for making better weather and climate forecasts,” said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “NOAA’s partnership with IBM is a great case study of the public and private sectors working together to save lives.”

The supercomputers will harness 160 IBM System p575 servers, with 16 1.9 gigahertz POWER5+ processors. The machines also will contain 160 terabytes of IBM system storage DS4800 disk storage systems.

“Charged with the vital mission of weather forecasting, NOAA approaches the task with skill, dedication and creativity,” said David Turek, vice president of deep computing for IBM. “The IBM systems will serve as a powerful tool in NOAA’s arsenal, helping meteorologists and scientists improve forecasts for the protection of life and property and the enhancement of our national economy.”

Today’s announcement is part of a multi-year lease agreement previously made between the U.S. Department of Commerce and IBM. Currently, NOAA is in the fifth year of a nine-year contract awarded in 2002.

NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is celebrating 200 years of science and service to the nation. From the establishment of the Survey of the Coast in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson to the formation of the Weather Bureau and the Commission of Fish and Fisheries in the 1870s, much of America’s scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA. NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of the nation’s coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 60 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.


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