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Supercomputer Upgrade Adds Speed, Precision to NWS Forecasts
Added Capabilities Provide Improved Models Used in Forecasting
The National Weather Service commissioned a new IBM System Parallel supercomputer in January 2000. Currently the world's fastest computer for operational weather forecasting, the IBM SP allows the National Weather Service to generate faster, more accurate forecasts than at any time in its history. This new technology will help the NWS save lives and property and aid the U.S. economy with improved short-term and long-term weather and climate predictions critical to the marketplace.
The IBM SP received an upgrade in late 2000 and now operates 40 times faster than the Cray C-90 computer the agency last used in September 1999.
Better Forecast Models and Increased Accuracy
The supercomputer runs complex numerical weather models, which generate forecast guidance products that meteorologists use as the basis for their forecasts. The model simulations are a result of observations such as temperature, wind, precipitation, atmospheric pressure, and other oceanographic and satellite information taken from the ground, air, sea and space. These billions of bytes of observations are used by the supercomputer each day. The supercomputer's added capabilities and speed provide improved models to support forecasts made by meteorologists with the NWS and by commercial forecasters and the private meteorological industry. These models provide crucial guidance, allowing forecasters to predict weather events such as, hurricanes, floods, severe weather and winter storms days in advance.
"Precision in forecasting--both short-term and long-term--is the goal we are trying to reach," said Louis Uccellini, director of the NWS' National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). "Having advanced technology like the supercomputer gives meteorologists the information they need, on a consistent, reliable schedule, to make more accurate and timely forecasts. Forecasters now can apply research based on more data they will collect. They'll also be able to test new weather models more effectively and more quickly add results into the forecast process."
Located at the new Bowie Computer Center in Bowie, MD, the IBM SP's greater speed results in the delivery of important guidance on developing storms to forecasters at NCEP up to an hour sooner than possible in 1999. The supercomputer can resolve atmospheric conditions with finer detail than ever before without sacrificing product delivery timeliness. The advanced computer architecture and the modern Bowie facility combined to produce a system reliability in excess of 98.5 percent in 2000.
Strength in Numbers
What makes the new IBM SP supercomputer better than its predecessor, the Cray C-90? The answer is found in the numbers:
Dollars, Cents, Time and Space