NOAA is beefing up its forecasting computers to 5 petaflops

The supercomputer will be one of the most powerful computing systems in the world

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will increase its computing power by ten-fold this year to a total of 5 petaflops worth of computing power, creating one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world, the agency announced this week.

The first step in the process will be tripling the power of its dual supercomputers this month to 0.776 petaflops each, to create a total of a 1.5 petaflop system. By October the system’s full upgrade should be complete, bringing each supercomputer to a 2.5 petaflop speed, creating a 5 petaflop system.

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With the increased computing capacity NOAA and the National Weather Service will be able to provide more accurate and timely weather forecasts. Currently the Weather Service’s 10-day forecasts zoom into a range of 27 kilometers, but with the new system a more granular 13 kilometer view will be available. For long-range forecasts of 11 to 16 days out, a 33 kilometer map will be available as opposed to the 55 km one available now.

The upgrade is paid for through a $44.5 million contract with IBM’s Federal division and subcontracted to Cray Inc.

A 5 petaflop machine from NOAA would have just barely broken the top 10 fastest computers in the world. But, it has a long way to go to catch up to the 3.12 million core, 33.9 petaflop supercomputer in China named Tianhe-2.

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