The US's environmental intelligence agency has invested $44.5m to increase the capacity of its supercomputers in a bid to improve the speed and accuracy of weather forecasts.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) plans to boost the capacity of its two operational supercomputers by 2.5 petaflops to provide a total of five petaflops, 10 times the current capacity, by October 2015.
NOAA director Louis Uccellini explained that the agency continues to invest in the capacity of its supercomputer and observational platforms to deliver better environmental intelligence.
"By increasing our overall capacity, we'll be able to process quadrillions of calculations per second that all feed into our forecasts and predictions," he said.
"This boost in processing power is essential as we work to improve our numerical prediction models for the more accurate and consistent forecasts required to build a weather-ready nation."
The supercomputer capacity will be supplied by IBM, with Cray as a subcontractor.
Peter Ugngaro, chief executive at Cray, explained that expanding the capacity of the supercomputers will allow the NOAA to run operational weather forecasts with greater detail and precision.
"This investment to increase their supercomputing capacity will allow the NOAA National Weather Service to augment current capabilities and run more advanced models," he said.
Ahead of the major upgrade, the two supercomputers will have their capacity tripled in January so that the National Weather Service can begin running a upgraded version of its global weather forecast system to allow greater resolution and expanded forecasts.
Over half of the investment, $25m, was provided through the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 after Hurricane Sandy, which wreaked havoc across 25 US states.
NOAA administrator Kathryn Sullivan explained that the supercomputer upgrades should give communities more scope to defend against severe weather and climate events.
"These supercomputing upgrades will significantly improve our ability to translate data into actionable information, which in turn will lead to more timely, accurate and reliable forecasts," explained Sullivan.
The NOAA is not alone in looking at ways to enhance the accuracy of its forecasts through the use of supercomputers. The UK Met Office is building a £95m supercomputer to better predict weather and climate change.
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