The new supercomputer is live

In February 2016, weeks ahead of schedule, the Met Office implemented the second phase of its new high performance computer (HPC), or new supercomputer.

Where the first phase had been a like-for-like replacement of its predecessor, this was an upgrade delivering six times more power and making it the largest operational HPC in Europe. Perhaps more significantly, this increased capability was already being exploited within just three weeks of its delivery.

As David Underwood, Deputy Director of the HPC Programme explains, “This implementation has given us the biggest improvement in the Global Model’s performance that we’ve seen in a decade.”

Heralding a new era

Improving the quality of the Global Model enables more accurate forecasts over longer time periods, more detailed forecasting of weather and increased detail at a more local level – and this is just the beginning. The final phase is expected to be delivered months ahead of the 31 March deadline – and with it comes a step change for meteorological research as a whole.

As David states, “This is a real milestone for the UK, putting the Met Office at the forefront of weather and climate science, and enabling it to exploit that science to help its customers protect infrastructures, preserve life and promote prosperity.”

As the largest machine in the world dedicated to meteorological services, the fully operational HPC will be able to run 16,000 trillion calculations per second. This mind-boggling speed means the Met Office can translate ever more refined and complex scientific knowledge into effective products and services that bring tangible benefits.

Lasting benefits

These benefits span every sector. For example, more accurate wind forecasts should enable the aviation industry to better plan flight paths and reduce fuel consumption, and the renewables industry to reduce the risk associated with offshore wind resources.

More detailed and accurate advanced warning of potential flooding and severe weather should help increase winter resilience and help better protect businesses, assets and the public. And in the long term, high resolution climate models and more complete Earth System models provide the opportunity to better assess future impacts of a changing climate.