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Inside The MET Office Weather Supercomputer

The MET Office's main tool to forecast weather in the UK has been branded, perhaps unjustly, as one of the worst polluters in the public sector in the United Kingdom.

The computer, an IBM P-Series model, was purchased by the Meterological organisation for the rather impressive sum of £33 million back in May last year. In comparison, the MET Office new headquarters cost £80 million.

In terms of hardware, it uses the same processors as a Playstation 3, the Cell Broadband Engine, together with 13TB worth of memory and an array of hard disk drives totalling 550TB. All of this to run the MET's intricate simulations more precisely using the organisation's proprietary Unified Model code.

It consumes a staggering 1.2 Megawatts of energy and and that amount of power could power a small town. It also leaves a huge carbon footprint given the fact that it runs 24 hours a day - it takes eight weeks to boot up - and accounts for 75 percent of the Met Office's building.

Incredibly, the 5-year contract signed by the MET means that the computer system will only be ready by 2011 when it will be 30 times more powerful than the organisation's current computer but will only be the second most powerful in the country.

When it is completed, the computer is expected to top one one quadrillion floating point operations per second or one Petaflop, churning enough data for 400 scientists.

The MET Office's main tool to forecast weather in the UK has been branded as one of the worst polluters in the public sector in the United Kingdom.

The computer, an IBM P-Series model, was purchased by the Meterological organisation for the rather impressive sum of £33 million back in May last year. In comparison, the MET Office new headquarters cost £80 million.

It consumes a staggering 1.2 Megawatts of energy and and that amount of power could power a small town. It also leaves a huge carbon footprint given the fact that it runs 24 hours a day - it takes eight weeks to boot up - and accounts for 75 percent of the Met Office's building.

In terms of hardware, it uses the same processor as a Playstation 3, the Cell Broadband Engine, together with 13TB worth of memory and an array of hard disk drives totalling 550TB.

All of this to run the MET's intricate simulations more precisely using the organisation's proprietary Unified Model code.

Incredibly, the 5-year contract signed by the MET means that the computer system will only be ready by 2011 when it will be 30 times more powerful than the organisation's current computer but will only be the second most powerful in the country.

When it is completed, the computer is expected to top one one quadrillion floating point operations per second or one Petaflop, churning enough data for 400 scientists.

Our Comments

IBM's Roadrunner, the world's fastest supercomputer currently 1.1 Petaflop, is in operation at the Department of Energy, Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, USA. In 2011, IBM will launch Sequoia which has a targeted performance of 20 Petaflops.

Related Links

Met Office supercomputer tops polluting list (opens in new tab)

(ITPro)

Met Office climate change supercomputer polluting the planet (opens in new tab)

(Telegraph)

Climate change supercomputer makes Met Office 'super polluter' (opens in new tab)

(24dash)

Met Office among our worst polluters (opens in new tab)

(Dailytech)

Weather computer is air polluter (opens in new tab)

(BBC)

Désiré Athow
Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at ITProPortal.com where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.