Environmental Protection

National Weather Service Using Upgraded Supercomputers

Dr. Louis W. Uccellini, NWS director, calls the more than doubled computing capacity "a game-changer for the entire public and private weather industry."

An improved hurricane model and upgraded supercomputers are in use at the National Weather Service, which is monitoring the tropics for any cyclone as the midpoint of the 2013 Atlantic hurricane seasons nears. The agency's July 29 news release said the two supercomputers, nicknamed "Tide" (Reston, Va.) and "Gyre" (Orlando), can handle 213 trillion calculations per second, more than twice as fast at processing sophisticated computer models than what NWS had before.

"These improvements are just the beginning and build on our previous success. They lay the foundation for further computing enhancements and more accurate forecast models that are within reach," said Louis W. Uccellini, Ph.D., director of NOAA's National Weather Service. "These upgrades are a game-changer for the entire public and private weather industry. In addition to the benefits to our own forecasters and products, we will provide our private sector partners with better information to empower them to enhance their services."

"Next comes the quantum leap," he added. Funding requested in the president's FY 2014 budget, along with funding provided to NOAA by Congress this year as part of the Hurricane Sandy emergency supplemental appropriations bill, would increase computing power even further to 1,950 teraflops by summer 2015. "That gives us the necessary computer power to run an enhanced version of our primary forecast model, the Global Forecast System," Uccellini explained.

"Given recent events like the tornado in Moore, Oklahoma or Superstorm Sandy, federal weather resources and personnel should be considered vital national assets. These upgrades assure world-class capabilities and a continued pathway to keep American lives and property safer," said J. Marshall Shepherd, Ph.D., president of the American Meteorological Society and professor at the University of Georgia.

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