The Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced it has upgraded two twin supercomputers responsible for the nation’s Weather and Climate Operational Supercomputing System (WCOSS), expanding their computing capacity by 20 percent.

The enhancements to the two supercomputers – known as Dogwood and Cactus – will allow NOAA to run more complex forecasting models. In turn, NOAA can provide more detailed and accurate weather forecasts to better predict severe thunderstorms, cloud formations, and rain.

“Our investment in high-performance computing will pay off with better U.S. weather modeling,” said Michael C. Morgan, Ph.D., assistant secretary of commerce for environmental observation and prediction. “Forecast model upgrades made possible by this increased computing capacity will bring improved and timely forecasts and warnings that better protect life and property.”

The twin supercomputers are designed and operated by General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT). NOAA began running operational weather and climate forecast models on the supercomputers in June 2022, with a peak computing performance of 12.1 petaflops and 25 petabytes of storage.

With the latest upgrade, the supercomputers – located in Manassas, Va. and Phoenix, Ariz. – now operate at a speed of 14.5 petaflops each and have 31 petabytes of storage capacity.

“This increased supercomputing power allows for upgrades to specific modeling systems that will help weather forecasters deliver more accurate weather forecasts, watches and warnings, and improved certainty in a forecast,” Ken Graham, director of NOAA’s National Weather Service, said in a GDIT press release.

The improvements to the supercomputers will allow for upgrades to the U.S. Global Forecast System to make it higher-resolution; a new Rapid Refresh Forecast System with more data included; upgrades to the Global Ensemble Forecast System to better model emissions such as wildfire smoke, dust, and fog; and an expansion in compute power and storage, furthering the advancements made through NOAA’s Earth Prediction Innovation Center.

“Timely and accurate weather forecasts and warnings play a fundamental role in protecting the life and property of every American citizen,” said Mariano Alicea, GDIT’s vice president and general manager for aerospace and atmospherics. “As we continue to experience increasingly extreme weather events, every advancement in weather forecasting is critical. This expansion enables the National Weather Service to further improve its forecasts, better respond to severe weather events, and build the nation’s climate resilience.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.