Computer support has always been key to predicting the weather. It enables meteorologists to process data using complex models of the atmosphere, in order to forecast storms, flooding and droughts, both in the short term and over longer periods. From next year, the Met Office will have more computing power than ever, when a brand new £1.2bn supercomputer comes online.
What is a supercomputer?
Supercomputers are huge machines with mind-boggling processing power. While your average desktop machine will have two or perhaps four processing cores, the new Met Office machine will have 1.5million. This will enable it to process 60petaflops of data every second – that is 60 quadrillion or 60 with fifteen zeros after it. To put that in context, counting to a quadrillion would take you over 200million years.
The new Met Office supercomputer will be made up of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Cray supercomputers and will utilise cloud computing from Microsoft Azure. It will be one of the top 25 supercomputers in the world and will be six times faster than the current system. What’s more, it will be upgraded in around five years to be three times faster again.
Why do we need so much computer support?
Weather forecasting computers work by creating a simulation of the atmosphere. New data is fed into this simulation to see how it reacts, and so predict how the real atmosphere might react. The current UK weather supercomputer (which cost a bargain £97m) processes 200billion pieces of data a day from satellites, global weather stations and even ocean buoys, and at six times faster, the new system will significantly increase this processing power. The more data you put in, the more accurate the forecast you get out.
Why spend so much on weather forecasting?
Accurate weather forecasting means much more than just wearing the right coat or planning a barbecue at the weekend. Forecasts allow the authorities to prepare for extreme weather events, such as floods or droughts that risk wildfires. They also help the energy companies to prepare for increased demand during cold spells. In the longer term, accurate weather forecasts allow us to monitor climate change and proactively protect ourselves from the effects.
Is it worth £1.2bn?
The new supercomputer may be the biggest single investment ever by the Met Office, but it is well worth it. With extreme weather events becoming more commonplace, it is more important than ever to have accurate weather forecasts as far into the future as possible. One government estimate says that for every £1 spent on the new supercomputer, the economy will benefit by around £19 – so it’s pretty good value for money, even with such a huge price tag.
Helping the climate
As well as predicting the climate, the new supercomputer will support it too, as it will be powered entirely by renewable energy. Part of its work will be to support the UK in its goal of net zero emissions by 2050. As Professor Penny Endersby, Met Office Chief Executive explains: “This investment will ultimately provide 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.”
Computer support in Manchester and Preston
Of course, you don’t need to have 60petabytes of processing power to enjoy top class computer support for your business. AGT Computer Services are here to support the computer systems that support your business, with responsive, reliable service from our expert team available around the clock. We might not be able to tell you if it’s going to rain, but we can always help you with the cloud.