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Met Office to spend £1.2 billion on weather supercomputer

17/02/20

Mark Say Managing Editor

The Met Office has announced a £1.2 billion investment in a new supercomputer to improve its forecasting of severe weather and climate change.

Satellite view of storm

Coming after the weekend in which Storm Dennis inflicted serious damage on the UK, the announcement claimed the supercomputer is expected to be the world’s most advanced in the field.

It will be managed by the Met Office and provide data for predicting storms and changes to the climate, selecting solutions for flood defences and feeding into policy.

A spokesperson told UKAuthority that the investment will cover two phases, with the first iteration of the new supercomputer scheduled to go live by the end of 2022 when the existing Cray XC40 system reaches the end of its useful life.

The first phase should provide a sixfold increase in computing capacity – up from the existing 2Pb of memory, 24Pb of storage and 460,000 compute cores – and a further threefold growth with the second iteration. Features of the new capability will be established as the procurement progresses.

Accuracy and resilience

Met Office chief executive Professor Penny Endersby said: “This investment will ultimately provide earlier more accurate warning of severe weather, the information needed to build a more resilient world in a changing climate and help support the transition to a low carbon economy across the UK.

“It will help the UK to continue to lead the field in weather and climate science and services, working collaboratively to ensure that the benefits of our work help government, the public and industry make better decisions to stay safe and thrive. 

“We welcome this planned investment from UK Government.”

The Government has also announced £30 million for advanced supercomputing services, providing researchers with access to the latest technology and expert software engineers.

The funding will support seven high performance computing (HPC) services run by universities including Queen’s Belfast, Edinburgh and Durham. The services will provide researchers with access to powerful systems to support work in areas including artificial intelligence, energy storage and supply, and therapeutic drug design.

Image: Satellite imagery of North Atlantic storms from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

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