The British are taking their obsession with the weather to new heights. Today, the UK announced it is advancing its project to build the world’s most powerful climate and weather supercomputer with the help of Microsoft. The country’s weather service, the Met Office, has struck a multimillion-pound agreement with the tech company on the project, which was previously earmarked to receive £1.2 billion ($1.6 billion) of government funding.
While the UK already boasts a weather supercomputer — which can perform 16,000 trillion calculations a second — the new machine will be twice as powerful. By gaining access to more detailed climate modeling, the UK is hoping to future-proof its city and transport infrastructure to protect them against extreme weather events. The system will be located in the South of the UK and will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy. It’s expected the setup will save 7,415 tonnes of CO2 in the first year of operation.
Once it’s up and running next summer, the supercomputer will also provide detailed simulations of local forecasts to help emergency services prepare for heavy rain and flooding. The new system could be a boon for rural communities, which were battered by storms last year, leading to calls for the government to create more sustainable drainage systems.
According to scientists in the Climate Coalition, England has experienced a major flood almost every year since 2007. The Met’s existing Cray XC40 supercomputer partly relies on data submitted by the public to make weather predictions for more remote parts of the UK.
Naturally, Microsoft has been brought in because of its expertise in cloud and quantum computing. The company has invested $1 billion in startup Open AI’s Azure-hosted “supercomputer,” built to test large-scale artificial intelligence models. Featuring 285,000 CPU cores and 10,000 GPUs, Microsoft says the machine is equivalent to the top five fastest systems in the world. Currently, the title of the world’s most powerful supercomputer belongs to Japan’s Fugaku.
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