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Met Office and Microsoft to build supercomputer for weather and climate

22/04/21

Mark Say Managing Editor

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The Met Office has signed an agreement with Microsoft for the provision of a supercomputing capability for weather and climate forecasting.

Tree blowing in heavy wind

It said the new supercomputer – expected to be the world’s most advanced dedicated to weather and climate – will be in the top 25 in the world and twice as powerful as any other in the UK.

It will generate data to provide more accurate warnings of severe weather, support climate change modelling and inform government policy.

This follows the announcement by the government in February 2020 of £1.2 billion of funding to develop the supercomputer.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “This partnership between the Met Office and Microsoft to build the world’s most powerful weather and climate forecasting supercomputer is a ringing endorsement for the UK’s credentials in protecting our environment, as we prepare to host COP26 later this year.

“The new supercomputer, backed by a billion pound UK government investment, will act as a catalyst for unlocking new skills, technologies and jobs right across our economy – from data scientists to AI experts - all as part of our efforts to build back better and create a cleaner future.”

Localising information

It is scheduled to be up and running in summer 2022 and should provide more detailed models with a larger quantity of environmental and social data. The Met Office pointed to the example of producing detailed city scale simulations with localised climate information.

It should also produce more accurate forecasts of winds and temperature to support the aviation industry, and support resilience planning when storms and flooding are forecast.

Penny Endersby, chief executive of the Met Office, said: “Working together we will provide the highest quality weather and climate datasets and ever more accurate forecasts that enable decisions to allow people to stay safe and thrive.  This will be a unique capability which will keep not just the Met Office, but the UK at the forefront of environmental modelling and high performance computing.”

The Met Office added that the supercomputer will be based in the south of the UK and bring about employment, apprenticeships, internships, mentoring opportunities, training in digital skills and support for start-ups in the South-West and other locations.

It will powered by 100% renewable energy and is expected that this will save 7,415 tonnes CO2 in the first year of operational service.

Image from iStock, Paul Knightley

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