A new £97 million supercomputer to predict weather and climate change for the Met Office is to be part built at Exeter Science Park.
The Cray XC40 High Performance Computer (HPC) will be able to perform more than 16,000 trillion calculations per second, and at 140 tonnes, will weigh the equivalent of 11 double decker buses.
The supercomputer will be 13 times more powerful than the current system used by the Met Office and will have 120,000 times more memory than a top-end smartphone.
The supercomputer’s impressive computing power opens up the potential for higher resolution models, which would have the ability to pinpoint more detail for small scale, high-impact weather. For example, applying very high resolution (300m) models could help better determine the risk and timing of fog over airports.
Scientists will also explore the benefits of adapting the resolution to improve UK winter forecasts months in advance, and assessing the specific regional impacts of climate change such as floods, droughts and heatwaves.
Part of the supercomputer will be sited at the IT Halls at the Met Office HQ in Exeter and part is expected to be sited at a purpose-designed building at Exeter Science Park, subject to planning permission.
Choosing the Science Park as a location for the facility should open up different opportunities for the Met Office to collaborate with new, like-minded businesses, science and research establishments and start-ups on innovative science projects.
Gerry Shattock of Exeter Science Park said: “This is a tremendous opportunity for Exeter which has got real strength in complex data sets and climate change adaptation. We will seek to build an open innovation community on the Exeter Science Park for a range of organisations of different sizes and from anywhere in the world and we believe that this will fuel enterprise and, ultimately, create new business opportunities in the wider area.”
The supercomputer’s forecasts are expected to deliver £2 billion of socio-economic benefits to the UK by enabling better advance preparation and contingency plans to protect peoples’ homes and businesses.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, said: “We are a country fascinated by the weather, so it’s no surprise that from early barometers to this weather supercomputer, we’ve always led the way in developing technology to predict the weather.
“This £97m investment is a crucial part of the Government’s wider drive to make the UK the best place in the world to do science and research. By bringing world-class technology to the South West, we are also boosting regional investment and expertise, creating a stronger economy and fairer society.
Universities, Science and Cities Minister Greg Clark said: “This is an investment that says the UK believes in science, putting us up there with the very best in the world, enabled by technology that will make huge strides in weather and climate forecasting.
“I have been eager to make this happen for some time, and I am confident that the supercomputer will make this nation more resilient and better prepared for high impact weather and boost the economy - improving lives up and down the country.”
Met Office Chief Executive Rob Varley said: “We are very excited about this new investment in UK science. It will lead to a step change in weather forecasting and climate prediction and give us the capability to strengthen our collaborations with partners in the South West, UK and around the world.
The first phase of the supercomputer will be operational in September 2015 and the system will reach full capacity in 2017.