NOAA 2001-209
Contact: Ron Trumbla


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The IBM supercomputer, which is providing higher-resolution weather models for meteorologists at NOAA's National Weather Service, received an upgrade last month and now is operating 40 times faster than the Cray C-90 computer the agency last used in September 1999.

At the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society in Albuquerque, N.M., National Weather Service officials said the supercomputer upgrade continues the momentum toward faster, more accurate weather models that meteorologists will use to hone their forecasts.

"Precision in forecasting -- both short-term and long-term -- is the goal we are trying to reach," said Louis Uccellini, director of NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Prediction. "Having advanced technology like the supercomputer gives meteorologists the information they need, at a faster rate, to make forecasts that are more accurate and timely."

With the upgrade, the IBM System Parallel supercomputer now generates weather data at speeds of over 3 trillion calculations per second, compared to 690 billion calculations per second before the upgrade. Numerical weather models, which generate forecasts for up to 16 days into the future, start by using atmospheric observations, including temperature, wind speed, precipitation and other oceanographic and satellite information. These models provide crucial guidance to forecasters that allows them to predict weather events such as hurricanes, floods, severe weather and winter storms days in advance. The observations result in the collection of billions of "bytes" of data.

Retired Brig. Gen. Jack Kelly, director of the National Weather Service, said the recent upgrade is another example of the agency's effort to keep pace with technology and its commitment to "providing the best weather forecasts possible."

The supercomputer is housed at the Commerce Department's Census Bowie Computer Center in Bowie, Md.

NOTE TO MEDIA: Video footage of the IBM SP supercomputer is available in Beta-SP or VHS format from Video Transfer of Rockville, Md., (301) 881-0270.