Our supercomputers

The Met Office weather forecasting and climate prediction models are run on very powerful supercomputers. These are very powerful and require a lot of energy. They must also be kept cool.

Our IBM supercomputers run the computer models which provide us with weather forecasts and climate predictions.

They compile data ranging from weather observations (land, sea and air) to satellite images. The computer models perform trillions of calculations per second, ultimately giving us output which our forecasters and scientists can interpret.

A number of schemes have been implemented to make the supercomputers more energy efficient.

Cold aisle containment

Cold aisle containment Cold aisle containment

In 2010 a 3D computer model was created showing the relative temperatures between the computer racks and the IT hall itself. In the past the whole of the IT hall was kept cool. This was inefficient and costly therefore a cold aisle containment method was implemented to cool the equipment, not the whole room.

Clear plastic curtains were installed around the supercomputer racks. This system enables hot and cold aisles to be segregated.

This more efficient system enabled 20 re-circulating air conditioning units to be switched off and saves around £112,000 and 756.8 tCO2e per year.

Direct Current power

We are the first organisation in the world to run an IBM supercomputer on Direct Current (DC) power. Most domestic and commercial appliances run on AC/DC power.

A one month trial was completed running the MONSOON supercomputer in 2010, which is run in collaboration with The Natural Environment Research Council. Running on DC power as opposed to Alternating Current power removes the conversion process as electricity is supplied to us in DC.

This ground-breaking project lead to us being shortlisted for the Institute of Engineering and Technology Innovation Awards. A 10% energy saving was made.

Free cooling

Free cooling Free cooling

A free cooling system was installed in 2011 to provide the Met Office estate with the ability to economically assist in the cooling of its computational processes.

Free cooling involves four evaporative cooling plants on the roof. Water is pumped through a coiled pipe. The pipe is sprayed with water from a sprinkler. Free cooling water is supplied from an onsite borehole.

A fan blows air across the wetted surface of the coil. This cools the water in the coil and this water is used to cool the supercomputers. This system can be used as long as the wet bulb temperature is <=22 oC.

The free cooling system saves around £140,300 on imported electricity and produces 1,030 tCO2e less than using electric chillers.

Last updated: 10 March 2015