Government unveils plans for £1.2bn climate ‘supercomputer’

The Met Office's current Cray computers (pictured) will be phased out from 2022. Image: Met Office. 

The “supercomputer” will provide data to more accurately predict storms, select the most suitable locations for flood defences and predict changes to the global climate.

It will be managed by the Met Office and share data with the Environment Agency and the energy sector.

The new model will replace the Met Office Cray supercomputers as they begin to reach the end of their life in late 2022. It will take ten years to completely replace these capabilities but within the first six years, the Met Office’s computing capacity will have increased six-fold, the Government said. A further three times increase in supercomputing capacity will be sought for years six to 10.

While the project as a whole will have an investment of £1.2bn, the expected contractual value for the supercomputing capability is £854m. Other costs include investment in the Observations Network, exploiting the capabilities of the supercomputer and the programme office costs.

The move was welcomed by the Energy Networks Association, whose director of external affairs, Ross Easton, said: “As we have seen from storms Ciara and Dennis, our energy networks are more resilient than ever before thanks to years of continued investment by our members.

“We welcome this move by the UK government to strengthen weather forecasting technology, providing greater forecasting accuracy. It will allow our members to make even better plans during future storms and, ultimately, help keep the lights on in the worst of weather.”

The newly-appointed business and energy secretary Alok Sharma – also COP26 president -said: “Over the last 30 years, new technologies have meant more accurate weather forecasting, with storms being predicted up to five days in advance.

“Come rain or shine, our significant investment for a new supercomputer will further speed up weather predictions, helping people be more prepared for weather disruption from planning travel journeys to deploying flood defences.”

The announcement comes after utility companies were thrown into action at the weekend to tackle the fallout from Storm Dennis.

James Wallin

This article first appeared on edie’s sister title, Utility Week

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Comments (2)

  1. Richard Phillips says:

    Undoubtedly a very fine new computer; but we must be ever aware that if there is any error in the input data, the output be useless!!!
    The Met Office have a fixed idea of the influence of one part in fifty of CO2 on the major greenhouse gas, water vapour. But this seems to be without a definitive model of just how CO2 manages to punch so much above its weight. My enquiries of them have produced only one answer which was, frankly, ludicrous. I pointed out the error; since then silence!!!
    Rubbish in, rubbish out.

    Richard Phillips

  2. Andy Cook says:

    CO2 is the catalyst in a positive feedback cycle. A small increase in CO2 increases the temperature, which leads to more water vapour, as you note; a stronger greenhouse gas, which in turn increases temperature – amplifying the effect of the temperature increase in CO2. The amount of water vapour would not have changed if all other variables had remained the same. Hence, the importance of the role of CO2, and other gases, in warming the climate.

    I would be interested to know what enquiries you made to the Met Office, and what their response was. Many thanks.


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