October 28, 2014

The Met Office has confirmed funding for a £97m supercomputer to improve the Met Office's weather forecasting and climate modelling has been approved by the Government.

The new supercomputer will work 13 times faster than the current system, enabling detailed, UK-wide forecast models with a resolution of 1.5km to be run every single hour, rather than every three.

The Met Office said it would deliver a "step change" in forecast accuracy.

"It will allow us to add more precision, more detail, more accuracy to our forecasts on all time scales for tomorrow, for the next day, next week, next month and even the next century," said Met Office chief executive Rob Varley. 

At Rix, we welcome this news, as it will hopefully allow us and our customers to better plan ahead of bad weather especially in the winter months, when demand for heating oil is at its highest. Looking back at the winter of 2011, the UK's households got caught out by the extreme cold weather and heavy snow, this put huge pressure on households and the heating oil supply chain due to unprecedented demand. 

It will address one of the key challenges of climate projections - to "answer the real questions people need to know", said Mr Varley.

"We can tell you that the global average temperature is going to increase by 3C or 4C if we carry on as we are - but the critical question is what is that going to mean for London?

"What is it going to mean for Scotland? What is it going to mean for my back garden? At the moment the general looks that we can produce really don't answer those kinds of questions," he told BBC Radio 4's Today.

Mr Varley said he was "absolutely delighted" the government had confirmed its investment, which was first promised by the chancellor in the 2013 Autumn Statement.

The new system will be housed partly at the Met Office headquarters in Exeter and partly at a new facility in the Exeter Science Park, and will reach its full capacity in 2017.

At that point, its processing power will be 16 petaflops - meaning it can perform 16 quadrillion calculations every second.

The "Cray XC40" machine will have 480,000 central processing units or CPUs, which is 12 times as many as the current Met Office supercomputer, made by IBM. At 140 tonnes, it will also be three times heavier.



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