How the new NOAA supercomputers will improve forecast accuracy

Enhanced computing capabilities allow NOAA to better capture and forecast weather events.

MOLINE, Illinois — This week’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration added two new ones super computers to his fleet. The computersNamed Dogwood and Cactus after the flora in their new homes of Virginia and Arizona, they use data from the National Weather Service to forecast every weather imaginable — hurricanes, tornadoes, extreme heat, and even space weather.

It’s been four years since NOAA last adopted new supercomputers. Dogwood and Cactus are the product of a collaboration between NOAA and General Dynamics Information Technology in 2020.

Each supercomputer has a speed of 12.1 petaflops, which means it can process approximately 12 quadrillion operations per second† That is three times faster than the previous computer system. Each computer also has a storage capacity of 42 petaflops. By comparison, the four previous supercomputers in West Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi and Colorado had a combined capacity of 18 petaflops.

Enhanced computing and storage capabilities allow NOAA to better capture weather events such as severe thunderstorms, cloud formation, and precipitation. It also makes it possible to make more simulations. All of this will result in more accurate predictions and public safety warnings.

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These supercomputers will upgrade the US Global Forecast System this fall. The GFS is a weather forecasting model that generates data for the atmosphere and land-soil variables such as temperatures, wind, precipitation, soil moisture and atmospheric ozone concentration.

In 2023, NOAA plans to launch a new hurricane forecasting model called Hurricane Analysis and Forecast System. With this system, we can extend our hurricane forecast to seven days instead of the five days we can currently track.

The new supercomputers will allow NOAA’s Environmental Modeling Center to implement new applications over the next five years created by model developers in the US under the Unified Forecast System.

With Dogwood and Cactus ranked 49th and 50th fastest computers in the world by TOP500the progress we can make in weather forecasting by the end of the decade goes beyond the atmosphere!

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