Government approve new £97m Met Office supercomputer

A new £97 million supercomputer is to be built at the Met Office in Exeter, the Government has announced.

The project, which is scheduled to be operational by September 2015 and at full capacity by 2017, is widely expected to help cement the UK’s position as world leaders in the field of weather and climate prediction.

With the ability to perform 16,000 trillion calculations per second, the supercomputer will be around 13 times more powerful than the current system in place at the Met Office.

The computer, which will be supplied by Seattle-based specialists Cray, will be situated at two sites across Exeter; one half at the IT halls of the Met Office HQ, and one half at the Exeter Science Park, subject to planning permission.

The Chief Executive of the Met Office, Rob Varley, was clearly delighted with this news, stating, “We are very excited about this investment in UK science. It will lead to a step change in weather forecasting and climate prediction and give us the capability to strengthen our collaborations with partners in the South West, UK and around the world.

“The new supercomputer, together with improved observations, science and modeling, will deliver better forecasts and advice to support UK business, the public and government. It will help to make the UK more resilient to high impact weather and other environmental risks.”

With the capacity to provide high detail weather predictions in precise geographical locations through high-resolution models, the High Performance Computer (HCP) is intended to help the UK predict disruptive weather such as flooding, fog and heavy snowfall with greater accuracy and efficiency.

It is anticipated that the HCP will enable greater advance warning in cases of extreme weather, so that contingency plans to protect people’s businesses and homes can be put into place. The socio-economic benefit of these predictions is estimated to be around £2billion.

“This is an investment that says the UK believes in science, putting us up there with the very best in the world enabled by technology that will make huge strides in weather and climate forecasting” said Greg Clark, Universities, Science and Cities Minister.

“I have been eager to make this happen for some time, and I am confident that the supercomputer will improve lives up and down the country, making this nation more resilient and better prepared for high impact weather.”

Speaking about the development, Peter Ungaro, president and CEO of Cray, said “The Met Office is both a pioneer and leader in weather and climate services, and we are excited that Cray supercomputers will assist them in achieving their important and complex mission of informing citizens and industry how the weather and climate will affect them now and in the future.”

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