Met Office developing world’s most advanced weather computer

A family is rescued from Nantgarw, Wales, during Storm Dennis on 16 February.

The Met Office’s supercomputer will help select the most suitable location for flood defences. Pictured, a family is rescued from Nantgarw, Wales, during Storm Dennis on 16 February. Photograph: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

A supercomputer designed to improve extreme weather and climate forecasting is to receive £1.2bn from the UK government towards its development.

The technology will be managed by the Met Office, with more sophisticated rainfall predictions and improving forecasting at airports among its aims.

Data collected by the powerful device will also be used to predict storms more accurately, select the most suitable locations for flood defences and forecast changes to the global climate.

The supercomputer is expected to be the most advanced of its kind dedicated to weather and climate in the world.

The Met Office’s current supercomputer, which is due to reach its end of life in late 2022, is among the world’s 50 most powerful computers, and contains enough storage to hold more than 100 years of HD films.

“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,” said Prof Penny Endersby, the Met Office’s chief executive.

“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.”

The government hopes the technology will help communities better prepare for weather disruption such as that from recent storms Dennis and Ciara.

The supercomputer itself is expected to cost £854m, with remaining funds going towards investment in the Met Office’s observations network and programme offices, over a 10-year period from 2022 to 2032.

“Over the last 30 years, new technologies have meant more accurate weather forecasting, with storms being predicted up to five days in advance,” said Alok Sharma, the business and energy secretary and Cop 26 president.

“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.”

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