Forecast: UK to have world's biggest weather supercomputer

Forecast: UK to have world's biggest weather supercomputer
The UK will build a £97m ($157m) supercomputer that can perform 16,000 trillion calculations a second and will be as heavy as 11 double-decker buses. It will help forecast the country’s famously unpredictable weather.

It will “cement the UK's position as a world leader in weather and climate prediction,” the Met Office said in a statement.

The Cray Inc. computer, to be based at the Met Office and Exeter Science Park, will be 13 times faster than the current system used by the government’s weather forecaster.

The machine, weighing in at 140 tons, will have 17 million gigabytes of data storage and 2 million gigabytes of memory for calculations.

Met Office Chief Executive Rob Varley said the supercomputer “will lead to a step change in weather forecasting and climate prediction.”

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

AFP Photo / Geoff Caddick

The machine will give hourly updates and highly detailed weather information for local areas, which will help the UK to predict and deal more effectively with disruptive weather events such as flooding, strong winds, fog and heavy snowfall.

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Airports will benefit from improved warnings of fog, strong winds and snow, and food producers, processors and retailers will gain from higher quality forecasts.

Greg Clark, the Universities, Science and Cities Minister, hopes the supercomputer will make the UK more resilient and better prepared for high impact weather and boost the economy, “improving lives up and down the country.”

Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, said: “We are a country fascinated by the weather, so it's no surprise that from early barometers to this weather supercomputer, we've always led the way in developing technology to predict the weather.”

The supercomputer is set to begin operating in September 2015 and will reach full capacity in 2017.