US weather and climate forecasting supercomputers take a big hit

Twin supercomputers Dogwood (shown here) and Cactus are the latest additions to NOAA’s operational weather and climate supercomputer system. Located in Manassas, Virginia and Phoenix, Arizona respectively, each supercomputer operates at a speed of 12.1 petaflops — three times faster than NOAA’s previous system. (General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT))

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Today, NOAA inaugurated the nation’s newest weather and climate supercomputers with an operational run of the National Blend of Models. The new super computers first announced in February 2020 with a contract award to General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT), significantly upgrade the computing capacity, storage space and connection speed of the country’s weather and climate operational supercomputing system.

“Accurate weather and climate forecasts are critical to informing public safety, supporting local economies and addressing the threat of climate change,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. “Through strategic and continued investment, the US is retaking a global top spot in high-performance computing to provide more accurate and timely climate forecasts to the public.”

“More computing power allows NOAA to provide the public with more detailed weather forecasts in advance,” said NOAA administrator, Rick Spinrad, Ph.D. “Today’s supercomputing implementation is the culmination of years of hard work by incredible teams across NOAA — everyone should be proud of this achievement.”

“This is a big day for NOAA and the state of weather forecasting,” said Ken Graham, director of NOAA’s National Weather Service. “Researchers are developing new ensemble-based forecasting models at record speed, and now we have the computing power needed to make many of these substantial improvements to improve weather and climate forecasting.”

Improved compute and storage capabilities enable NOAA to deploy higher resolution models to better capture small-scale features such as severe thunderstorms, more realistic model physics to better capture cloud formation and precipitation, and a greater number of individual model simulations to better quantify model certainty† The end result is even better forecasts and warnings to support public safety and the national economy.

The new supercomputers will enable an upgrade to the US Global Forecast System (GFS) this fall and the launch of a new hurricane forecasting model called the Hurricane Analysis and Forecast System (HAFS), which will be operational pending tests for the 2023 hurricane season. to be. and evaluation.

In addition, the new supercomputers will enable NOAA’s Environmental Modeling Center – a division of the National Weather Service’s National Centers for Environmental Prediction – to implement other new applications created by model developers in the US under the Unified forecasting systemexternal link the next five years.

The two Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) Cray supercomputers, called Dogwood and Cactus, are named after the flora native to their geographic locations, Manassas, Virginia and Phoenix, Arizona, respectively. They replace NOAA’s previous Cray and IBM supercomputers in Reston, Virginia and Orlando, Florida. The computers serve as primary and backup for seamless transfer of operations from one system to another.

Each supercomputer operates at a speed of 12.1 petaflops, three times faster than NOAA’s previous system. Combined with NOAA’s research and development supercomputers in West Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi and Colorado, which have a combined capacity of 18 petaflops, the supercomputing capacity supporting NOAA’s new operational forecasting and research is now 42 petaflops.

According to GDIT, Dogwood and Cactus are currently ranked as the 49th and 50th fastest computers in the world by TOP500.

Under the initial 8-year contract with an optional 2-year extension, GDIT designed and operates as the owner/user of the computers with the responsibility of maintaining them and providing all supplies and services, including labor, facilities and computer components.

“The first phase of the contract includes products and services for the first five years, after which NOAA will work with the contractor to plan the next upgrade phase,” said David Michaud, director of the National Weather Service’s Office of Central Processing. “This new holistic approach to managed services enabled us to acquire the best system on the market that can be adapted as our needs grow in the future.”

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