The National Weather Service put two new supercomputers into operation Wednesday morning. The first, called ‘Dogwood,’ is in Manassas, Virginia while the second, named Cactus, is in Phoenix, Arizona. The duo is running on opposite sides of the country to provide the most expansive coverage possible.
Ken Graham, the Director of the National Weather Service, said “This is a game-changer for NOAA and the stat of weather forecasting in the United States.”
These new supercomputers are the 49th and 50th fastest computers on the planet.
“This advance in high-performance computing gives us three times faster compute speed over our former super computers in addition to more storage space and more computing capacity,” Graham said.
With increased storage capacities the computers will be able to ingest more weather observations. This will in turn improve forecasting abilities and accuracy. The computers can hold up to 26 petabytes of data, which is equivalent to 26 million gigabytes.
These new computers will provide important meteorological advancements. Most notably, the supercomputers will improve high-resolution weather models, increase forecast confidence, and provide a new and improved hurricane tracking system.
Let's put into perspective how powerful these computers really are. If everyone on the planet was given a handheld calculator and was asked to do continuous calculations it would take about one month to keep up with what these new computers can do in one second. That equates to about a quadrillion computations per second or an operating speed of 12 petaflops.