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MPs say the Met Office needs a bigger supercomputer to predict the weather

Shower praise on computation
Tue Feb 21 2012, 13:07

THE UK Met Office will need to spend big on supercomputers if it wants to provide the weather forecasts people want, according to a group of MPs.

The Met Office provides weather data to millions and has used supercomputers from Cray, NEC and IBM to crunch the numbers behind its weather forecasts. However Brits are increasingly asking for more longer-term forecasts, said MPs, which require significantly higher amounts of computing power.

The MPs sitting on Parliament's Science and Technology Committee said scientific advances are being held back due to insufficient computing capacity. The committee's chairman, Andrew Miller said he understood the financial repercussions of buying a new supercomputer cluster, however he told the BBC it could deliver "as much as a 10-to-one return on investment".

The Met Office needs more compute power not only to increase the accuracy of its forecasts but also to be able to predict longer term weather patterns. According to Miller the weather should carry percentage figures as they do in the US, so for example, forecasters could say there is a 60 per cent chance of rain.

According to the Met Office, it has no additional funding for increasing its number crunching abilities. The outfit's most recent publicly known supercomputer is an 7040-core IBM Power6 unit that has a peak performance to 132 teraflops. µ


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