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WeatherTalk: Weather forecasting just got a boost in computing power

NOAA will use this computer upgrade to launch new model applications starting this fall.

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FARGO — Two new Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) Cray supercomputers, called Dogwood and Cactus, aptly named for their locations in Manassas, Virginia, and Phoenix, Arizona, are the new heartbeats of American weather forecast models. These supercomputers; designed, deployed, operated, and maintained by General Dynamics Information Technology; are among the fastest in the world, with an operating speed of 12.1 petaflops, or 12.1 thousand million million floating-point operations per second. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will use this computer upgrade to launch new model applications starting this fall.

The extra computing power will give weather models improved resolution of the atmosphere and faster results, all of which will make weather forecasts better. Weather forecasting will never be perfect, of course. It's a big atmosphere and we are unable to measure it all. Errors in the models' initial conditions create errors over time. These new computers will help make those errors smaller.

Related Topics: WEATHER
John Wheeler is Chief Meteorologist for WDAY, a position he has had since May of 1985. Wheeler grew up in the South, in Louisiana and Alabama, and cites his family's move to the Midwest as important to developing his fascination with weather and climate. Wheeler lived in Wisconsin and Iowa as a teenager. He attended Iowa State University and achieved a B.S. degree in Meteorology in 1984. Wheeler worked about a year at WOI-TV in central Iowa before moving to Fargo and WDAY..
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