UK invests £97m in weather and climate supercomputer

The Met Office says the system, 13 times more powerful than its existing capacity, will bring £2 billion of benefits

From the barometer to the supercomputer (Pic: Flickr/Tim Ellis)

From the barometer to the supercomputer, better forecasts help people plan
(Pic: Flickr/Tim Ellis)

By Megan Darby

The UK’s Met Office has invested £97 million in a supercomputer to predict weather and climate change.

Thirteen times more powerful than its existing system, the supercomputer will allow scientists to create higher resolution models.

They can use these to predict the regional impacts of climate change in greater detail, as well as updating weather forecasts every hour.

Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury, said: “We are a country fascinated by the weather, so it’s no surprise that from early barometers to this weather supercomputer, we’ve always led the way in developing technology to predict the weather.

“This £97m investment is a crucial part of the government’s wider drive to make the UK the best place in the world to do science and research.”

The supercomputer is to be built at the Met Office headquarters in Exeter and start running in September 2015.

Weighing in at 140 tonnes, the equivalent of 11 double decker buses, it will be able to perform more than 16,000 trillion calculations a second.

The Met Office estimates the more sophisticated forecasts will bring £2 billion of benefits to the UK economy, by providing data to better prepare for severe weather.

“We are very excited about this new investment in UK science. It will lead to a step change in weather forecasting and climate prediction,” said Met Office chief executive Rob Varley.

“The new supercomputer, together with improved observations, science and modelling, will deliver better forecasts and advice to support UK business, the public and government.

“It will help to make the UK more resilient to high impact weather and other environmental risks.”

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