Government unveils plans for £1.2bn climate 'supercomputer'

The Government has promised to strengthen the UK's resilience to flooding and drought by investing £1.2 billion in the world's most advanced weather and climate forecaster.

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

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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