New IBM supercomputer to improve weather predictions
- By Colleen O'Hara
- Jan 18, 2000
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service today declared operational one of the world's fastest supercomputers, which it will use to improve the accuracy and timeliness of weather forecasts and warnings.
The new IBM Corp. supercomputer already is five times faster than the Cray Research C-90 supercomputer that it is replacing. When it reaches full capacity in September, officials said it will be 28 times faster than the Cray supercomputer. The Cray system last fall was destroyed when it caught fire. NOAA leased the system from IBM until Sept. 2002 for $35 million.
The supercomputer generates numerical weather models that are based on air and ground observations, such as temperature and wind. Forecasters use the models to help make forecasts and issue warnings about sever weather. The new system will provide better models to make more accurate forecasts.
"You will get more specific forecasts for your area," said Louis Uccellini, director of NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Prediction. "It will provide better timing about the onset of rain and when it will end."
Once it is operating at full capacity, the new system will provide high-resolution forecast models accurate to within 10 kilometers for regional forecasts — a significant improvement on the current capability of 32 kilometers. In five years, seven-day forecasts will be as accurate as five-day forecasts are now, Uccellini said.
"Forecasts will come out sooner, and we'll have more confidence in the forecasts," Uccellini said.