Tag Archive for: forecasting

NOAA to Triple Supercomputing Capacity for Weather, Climate Forecasting

On February 20, NOAA announced computing upgrades that will enable new and improved weather and climate forecasting. Significant upgrades to supercomputing capacity, storage space, and interconnect speed of its Weather and Climate Operational Supercomputing System will keep the agency’s supercomputing capacity on par with other leading weather forecast centers around the world.

Why We Need More Supercomputing Capacity

As good as weather forecasting has become, it can still go much further. That’s why this item caught my eye.

The paths of tropical storms can be notoriously fickle. Harvey, for instance, made landfall three times. Hurricane Rita caused officials to order the mass evacuation of 3.7 million Houstonians, only to have the storm veer east at the last minute. The evacuation created a disaster in itself. Forecast inaccuracies also lower the confidence of those contemplating lowering the level of area lakes in advance of approaching storms.

Image courtesy of NOAA

Triple Capacity, Double Storage and Interconnect Speeds

This increase in high-performance computing will triple the capacity and double NOAA’s storage and interconnect speed. It will help NOAA create better forecast model guidance. The keys: higher-resolution and more comprehensive Earth-system models that use larger ensembles, advanced physics, and improved data assimilation.

“We will restore America’s international leadership with the best weather forecasts, powered by the fastest supercomputers and world-class weather models,” said Neil Jacobs, Ph.D., acting NOAA administrator. 

Two new Cray computers, an operational primary and backup, will be located in Manassas, Virginia, and Phoenix. The computers each have 12 petaflop capacity. They will become operational by early 2022 after code migration and testing.

New Total of 40 Petaflops

Coupled with NOAA’s other research and development supercomputers, which have a combined capacity of 16 petaflops, NOAA’s new prediction and research computing capabilties will reach 40 petaflops.

A petaflop is a unit of computing speed equal to one thousand million million (1015) floating-point operations per second.

Earth Prediction Innovation Center

The new computers will help advance research and development under NOAA’s emerging Earth Prediction Innovation Center (EPIC). They should make the U.S. Global Forecast System the best model in the world.

“Through EPIC, we have an opportunity to regain our footing as a world leader in global weather prediction. The system will foster partnerships with university and industry scientists and engineers to advance U.S. numerical weather prediction,” added Jacobs.  

EPIC will make it easier for developers across all sectors to collaborate on improving the nation’s weather and climate models. It leverages combined skills and resources and lowers barriers for interaction. It does that through the use of cloud computing and a community modeling approach called the Unified Forecast Systemoffsite link

Current Acquisition Will Lay Ground for Future Advances

“The National Weather Service ran a competitive acquisition to ensure we have the supercomputing power needed to implement all the great modeling advancements we anticipate over the next several years,” said Louis W. Uccellini, Ph.D., director of the National Weather Service. “This is an exciting time for all of us in the weather research and operations community, with bold changes on the horizon. We are making sure NOAA is ready.”

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/27/2020 based on information provided by NOAA

912 Days since Hurricane Harvey

New, Higher Resolution Global Weather Forecasting on the Horizon

On January 8, 2019, IBM announced that it will soon introduce a new higher resolution weather-forecasting system. The IBM Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System (GRAF) will offer 3 kilometer resolution compared to the current industry-average 13-kilometer resolution. That’s 1.25 miles instead of 8.

IBM GRAF system will offer weather forecasters a more than 200% increase in resolution. Image credit: IBM

The system will enable truly local forecasts as opposed to regional. And it will do so on a worldwide basis. Forecasters will soon see individual thunderstorms, not just fronts. And the system will update every hour as opposed to every six to twelve hours, which is the current industry standard. NOAA’s High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) model does run hourly at 3-kilometer resolution, but only covers the U.S. The new GRAF system will offer enhanced resolution throughout the world and predict weather as small as a thunderstorm anywhere on the planet. It should especially help regions without access to a system like HRRR.

Improvements Result from Wider Data Collection and Enhanced Processing Power.

IBM says it will crowdsource data. GRAF has the ability to collect pressure sensor readings sent from barometers found in billions of smartphones (if people opt in to share that information). GRAF will also collect data from tens of thousands of commercial aircraft constantly flying at high altitudes all around the world. IBM will process all that data on one of the three most powerful supercomputers in the world. The graphics processing unit in the computer can handle 3.5 petabytes of data. Each petabyte equals 1 million gigabytes or a billion megabytes.

Benefits of Higher Resolution

This much-improved weather system will help people and communities plan better for weather events. IBM expects it will help:

  • Utility companies to better position repair crews to get power back faster after a storm
  • Airlines to more effectively route around turbulence 
  • Farmers to better anticipate and prepare for dramatic shifts in weather
  • Insurers to predict surges in weather-related claims
  • Better emergency response during extreme events, such as hurricanes, typhoons or tonoradoes.

The new IBM GRAF system should enable more accurate forecasts and better coordination throughout the world.

For more information, see posts about the new IBM GRAF system on Weather Underground and Weather Company sites. Also, the Washington Post had an interesting review that discusses the history of the system’s development.

My thanks to Mario Gomez, retired KHOU weather forecaster, for bringing this to my attention.

Posted by Bob Rehak on January 9, 201

498 Days since Hurricane Harvey