NOAA’s new supercomputers will improve forecast models

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the arm of the U.S. government in charge of weather and climate forecasting, recently purchased two new supercomputers.

NOAA said the new supercomputers are three times faster than their former system. The supercomputers are primarily used to generate forecast models, which are used by meteorologists around to country to create their own weather forecasts.

The new computers will be able to outperform their predecessors in essentially every aspect of their functionality, according to NOAA. This gives more detailed forecasts further in advance while also increasing the overall accuracy of the forecasts.

“The new supercomputers, first announced in February 2020 with a contract award to General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT), provide a significant upgrade to computing capacity, storage space and interconnect speed of the nation’s Weather and Climate Operational Supercomputing System,” according to NOAA.

Built by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), the two Cray supercomputers are known as Dogwood and Cactus–the namesakes come from plants in their respective geographic locations in Virginia and Arizona.

Each computer operates at a speed of 12.1 petaflops, but combined with their other supercomputers around the United States, the collective capacity of NOAA’s weather forecasting software is a whopping 42 petaflops.

Among the upgraded supercomputers’ features is the ability to better understand storm formation, as well as the expected severity of a given storm. This will likely translate to more confident predictions regarding all aspects of tornado formation–something weather forecasting systems have long struggled doing.

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