NOAA completes weather and climate supercomputer upgrades

Nearly four-fold increase in computing capacity to innovate U.S. forecasting in 2016

January 11, 2016

NOAA’s Weather and Climate Operational Supercomputer System is now running at record speed, with the capacity to process and analyze earth observations at quadrillions of calculations per second to support weather, water and climate forecast models. This investment to advance the field of meteorology and improve global forecasts secures the U.S. reputation as a world leader in atmospheric and water prediction sciences and services.

The computers — called Luna and Surge — are located at computing centers in Reston, Virginia and Orlando, Florida. They are now running at 2.89 petaflops each for a new total of 5.78 petaflops of operational computing capacity, up from 776 teraflops of processing power last year.

“This significant investment in our operational supercomputers equips us to handle the tidal wave of data that new observing platforms will generate and allows us to push our science and operations into exciting new territory, said Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., NOAA’s administrator. “The faster runs and better spatial and temporal resolution that Luna and Surge provide will allow NOAA to improve our environmental intelligence dramatically, giving the public faster and better predictions of weather, water and climate change. This enhanced environmental intelligence is vital to supporting the nation’s physical safety and economic security.”

Sullivan said the ultimate goal of investment in operational and research supercomputing capacity is to build resilient communities in the United States by arming people with reliable environmental intelligence to make good decisions, as NOAA works to build a Weather-Ready Nation.

The increase in supercomputing strength will allow NOAA to roll out a series operational model upgrades throughout 2016. For example:

The increase in supercomputing capacity comes via a $44.5 million investment using NOAA's operational high performance computing contract with IBM, $25 million of which was provided through the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 related to the consequences of Hurricane Sandy. Cray Inc., headquartered in Seattle, serves as a subcontractor for IBM providing the new systems to NOAA.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on FacebookTwitterInstagram and our other social media channels.