alculations per second and is capable of taking in 215 billion weather observations from all over the world every day. But despite its impressive computational power, and ability to give advanced warning, accurate long-range forecasts on a local level remain out of reach.
"It's the regional details that are important, about where the risks will be, where the rain will fall and getting that information to first responders as fast as we can," says Andy Kirkman, head of government services at the Met Office. That regional data could be provided in the future by the Met’s new supercomputer, which was announced on Monday and will be the most powerful climate supercomputer in the world. The government said that it will invest £1.2bn into the project. The supercomputer itself is expected to cost £854m, with the remaining funds set to go towards investment in the Observations network and programme offices over a 10-year period from 2022 to 2032. The machine will increase the Met Office computing capacity six-fold allowing it to better forecast for airports so they can plan for potential disruption.
The Met's new supercomputer will look to deliver at least a further three times supercomputing capacity in the last four years of the programme. But, aside from the extra processing power, the Met Office is also hoping the machine will make it easier to deal with the data coming out. “It's valued not just in the accuracy but making that data more available to people to work on,” Kirkman says.
Being able to do this will only become more urgent as global warming starts to change the environment. The computer will use all the data available to allow it to predict everything from reasonable scenarios, to what are termed “black swan events”, ones which are unpredictable and potentially catastrophic.