The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Weather Service said on June 28 that it began its first operational run of weather modeling using new twin supercomputers supplied by General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT) that provide three times the computing capacity to support advanced weather modeling.

The twin HPE Cray supercomputers – Dogwood which is in Virginia and Cactus which is in Arizona – will produce weather forecast products using output from the new supercharged model runs. The forecasts are critical for public safety and every economic sector across the country, and also inform space weather impacts on communications, electrical power grids, and satellite operations.

NOAA contracted with GDIT in early 2020 for the two supercomputers with an aim to upgrade its computing capacity, storage space, and interconnect speed of the U.S. Weather and Climate Operational Supercomputing System (WCOSS).

The enhanced computing and storage capacity will allow NOAA to deploy higher-resolution models to better capture small-scale features, the agency said. It will also ensure more realistic models to better capture the formation of clouds and precipitation, along with a larger number of individual model simulations to better quantify model certainty.

The result, the NOAA explained, is better forecasts and warnings to support public safety and the national economy.

“More computing power will enable NOAA to provide the public with more detailed weather forecasts further in advance,” said NOAA Administrator, Rick Spinrad in a press release. “Today’s supercomputer implementation is the culmination of years of hard work by incredible teams across NOAA – everyone should be proud of this accomplishment.”

“This is a big day for NOAA and the state of weather forecasting,” said Ken Graham, director of NOAA’s National Weather Service. “Researchers are developing new ensemble-based forecast models at record speed, and now we have the computing power needed to implement many of these substantial advancements to improve weather and climate prediction.”

The new supercomputers are replacing  NOAA’s previous Cray and IBM supercomputers located in Reston, Va., and Orlando, Fla. Under the initial eight-year contract with NOAA, GDIT designed and serves as the owner and operator of the computers with the responsibility to maintain them and provide all supplies and services, including labor, facilities, and computing components.

“Timely and accurate weather forecasts protect every American citizen, every segment of the economy, and play an increasingly important role in emergency preparedness and response to severe weather events,” commented Kevin Connell, GDIT vice president and general manager for Science and Engineering. “With triple the computing capacity of NOAA’s current system, GDIT’s WCOSS supercomputers will enable future upgrades to the National Weather Service’s models that are essential for accurate and timely forecasts and warnings to protect life and property and enhance the American economy,” he said.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.