Better Weather Forecasts on the Way

In January the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a press release announcing a massive supercomputer upgrade that will boost accuracy and the efficiency of U.S. weather models. NOAA’s combined weather and climate supercomputing system will be among the 30 fastest in the world. Two Dell systems will be added to the IBMS and Crays at data centers in Reston, Virginia, and Orlando, Florida.

“NOAA’s supercomputers play a vital role in monitoring numerous weather events from blizzards to hurricanes, “said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “These latest updates will further enhance NOAA’s abilities to predict and warn American Communities of destructive weather.”

There has been a multiyear effort to build more powerful supercomputers and this upgrade completes phase three of this effort. The upgraded supercomputers will be able to make complex calculations faster to improve weather, water and climate forecasts models.

These upgrades will add 60 percent more storage capacity, allowing NoAA to collect and process more weather, water and climate observations used by all the models than ever before.

“NOAA’s supercomputers ingest and analyse billions of data points taken from satellites, weather balloons, airplanes, buoys and ground observing stations around the world each day,” said retired Navy Rear Admiral Dr. Timothy Gallaudet, acting NOAA administrator.

“Having more computing speed and capacity positions us to collect and process even more data from our newest satellites — GOES-East, NOAA-20 and GOES-S — to meet the growing information and decision-support needs of our emergency management partners, the weather industry and the public” added Gallaudet.

This initiative paves the way for NOAA’s National Weather Service to implement the next generation Global Forecast System (GFS), known as the “American Model,” next year. The GFS delivers hourly forecasts every six hours. The new GFS will have significant upgrades in 2019, including the ability to run models out to 16 days compared to the present that allows only out to 10 days. It will run in research mode during this year’s hurricane season.

This upgrade is part of the agency’s commitment to support the Weather-Ready Nation Initiative. It will allow the National Weather Service to advance its seamless suite of weather, water and climate models over the next few years, allowing for more precise forecasts of extreme events a week in advance and beyond. The improved hurricane forecasts and expanded flood information will enhance the agency’s ability to deliver critical support services to local communities. It will allow NOlAA’s atmosphere and ocean models to run as one system, helping forecasters to more readily identify interaction between the two and reduce the number of operational models.

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