The UK government is set to invest £1.2 billion on a new state-of-the-art supercomputer that will improve severe weather and climate forecasting. This will be 10 times faster than the current Cray XC40 computer. The data from the new supercomputer will be used to accurately predict storms with greater accuracy, identify the vulnerable spots, help with the flood defence strategy and also log as well as predict global climate changes.
The Met Office will be in charge of the new supercomputer. “This investment will ultimately provide earlier more accurate warning of severe weather, the information needed to build a more resilient world in a changing climate and help support the transition to a low carbon economy across the UK. It will help the UK to continue to lead the field in weather and climate science and services, working collaboratively to ensure that the benefits of our work help government, the public and industry make better decisions to stay safe and thrive,” says Penny Endersby, Met Office Chief Executive, in an official statement.
With the existing technology in place, authorities in the UK are able to predict weather changes every hour, instead of every three hours. Just this month, storms Ciara and Dennis were predicted and mapped as much as 5 days before they hit the UK. The current Cray supercomputers reach their end of life in the year 2022. The new supercomputer is expected to boost the computing capacity by 6 folds.
The UK government also announced a £30 million investment for advanced supercomputing services. This will give researchers access to the latest technology and expert software engineers, they say. The supercomputing services will also speed up scientific breakthroughs like developing ‘food fingerprinting’ to detect chemical contaminants in food and improving drug design, according to the official statement released by the UK government.
The funding will support 7 High Performance Computing (HPC) services at universities from across the UK. These include the Queen’s University Belfast, the University of Edinburgh, and Durham University. This will allow researchers access to powerful systems, particularly relevant in areas such as development of Artificial Intelligence, energy storage and supply, and therapeutic drug design. “The University of Edinburgh facility will benefit scientists from across the UK as they are given the opportunity to use this new technology. This additional funding builds on the work of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal which is creating world-leading hubs for AI research,” says Douglas Ross, UK government Minister for Scotland.
The UK government has worked with tech companies including Dell, Intel, NVIDIA, Mellanox Technologies and StackHPC in the past, particularly for the Cambridge Service for Data Driven Discovery, which is one of the most powerful academic supercomputers in the UK.