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Everybody complains about the weather, and now any individual’s going to do one thing about it.

All joking apart, predicting the weather is severe enterprise. From agriculture to delivery to the utility grid, understanding the forecast may be value billions of {dollars}. And there’s the matter of saving lives forward of storms and floods, a rising concern as local weather change roils the ambiance.

In the U.S., the accountability falls on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and its National Weather Service. The service depends a handful of supercomputers known as Venus, Mars, Luna and Surge to run the large local weather fashions that assist predict the weather over the subsequent 10 days and chart the path of main storms. Well, they actually had been supercomputers at the time they had been put in. Luna and Surge had been amongst the 50 quickest computer systems on the planet 5 years in the past. But with developments in chip design and system structure, they’ve been surpassed and now barely rank in the high 350.

So it’s time for an improve. On Thursday, NOAA introduced that it had chosen two new supercomputers from Cray that may every carry out 12 thousand million million floating-point operations per second. That’s the quantity 12 adopted by 15 zeroes, for these of you counting at residence. Or, as we are saying in the supercomputer recreation, 12 petaflops.

That will triple the company’s computing capability and be ok to rank in the high 20 quickest in the world, although the new weather predictors will want about a yr of testing earlier than coming on-line from places of work in Manassas, Virginia, and Phoenix, Arizona. Including provides and companies, NOAA is spending $505 million on an eight-year contract overseen by a unit of General Dynamics. It looks like pocket change given the stakes.

Atmospheric sciences professor Cliff Mass at the University of Washington has lengthy been a critic of the weather service’s modeling and computing shortfalls. So I known as the good professor yesterday to ask for his ideas on the newest super-boost to NOAA’s supercomputers. While he says that the new computer systems are “extremely good news” and “a huge improvement that they need,” Mass nonetheless believes that the authorities wants to get better organized round its weather modeling efforts.

To that finish, performing NOAA administrator Noah Jacobs has been working to set up the Earth Prediction Innovation Center, or EPIC. Next month, the company will subject a request for proposals to get EPIC going. The scope and particulars of the request ought to reveal how severe the authorities is about state-of-the-art weather forecasting, Mass says.

In the meantime, preserve an umbrella useful. And have a nice weekend.

Aaron Pressman

Twitter: @ampressman

Email: [email protected]

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