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BoM rolls out supercomputer for accurate weather predictions

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The Bureau of Meteorology’s (BoM) new Cray XC-40 supercomputer has been successfully commissioned, allowing the organization to predict the weather more efficiently. The supercomputer has been in use internally and by January next year, Australians will start to see improvements and enhanced accuracy in the weather forecasts.

The BoM will spend $77 million on a Cray supercomputer and storage system that claims will deliver more accurate weather forecasts and warnings across the country. The Cray XC40 supercomputer will allow weather researchers and scientists to run nearly 8 times the number of daily forecasts than with the current system with a 5 times improvement in global model resolution, Cray said. BoM has in the past run weather models on earlier generation Cray X-MP and Cray Y-MP machines.

Federal Minister for Environment, Greg Hunt, said the supercomputer will enable BoM to issue forecasts and warnings more often and with greater certainty than ever. This will provide the community and emergency services with unprecedented information, particularly prior to and during severe and extreme weather. He added,

Every summer, we see how vital Bureau services are in warning of weather associated with bushfires, thunderstorms, tropical cyclones, flooding, rain, and dangerous winds. Our nation is always going to be vulnerable to these events and the Bureau gives us the information we need to plan and act.

BOM’s Deputy Director of information systems and services, Dr. Lesley Seebeck, said the supercomputer marks a major milestone for the bureau, noting that the successful commissioning also demonstrates the BOM’s capacity to deliver large-scale IT initiatives. Seebeck said,

The increased computing power will allow the bureau to undertake a program of improvements to enhance the frequency, accuracy, and certainty of forecasts in the coming years.

The Cray XC-40 supercomputer runs on a Linux-based operating system, specifically designed to run large, complex applications and scale efficiently to more than 500,000 processor cores. It houses 2,160 compute nodes, with 51,840 Intel Xeon cores, 276TB of RAM, and a usable storage of 4.3PB.

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According to Seebeck, the new system will allow the BOM to take on board a lot of the data that is coming in from new and upgraded data sources, as well as provide a greater resolution. The new machine should also see a lifespan of about three years, with a mid-life upgrade scheduled for 2018.

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