UK Met tries to cure its black thumb

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The UK Met Office (the British government’s weather forecasting agency, founded in 1854) had some bad press in January of this year when the TimesOnline ran an article lambasting the organization for the carbon footprint of their new IBM supercomputer

For the Met Office the forecast is considerable embarrassment. It has spent £33m on a new supercomputer to calculate how climate change will affect Britain – only to find the new machine has a giant carbon footprint of its own.

“The new supercomputer, which will become operational later this year, will emit 14,400 tonnes of CO2 a year,” said Dave Britton, the Met Office’s chief press officer. This is equivalent to the CO2 emitted by 2,400 homes – generating an average of six tonnes each a year.

Now they are trying to get back out in front of that story with an emphasis on making energy considerations in the next upgrade more clearly decision drivers

The Met Office is planning to upgrade to its high performance computing systems in the next 18 months and is focusing on how to make those systems more efficient, according to the organisation’s head of IT services.

One of the techniques the Met Office has hit on is using direct current (DC) to power its servers rather than AC, to avoid the large losses of power during conversion from AC to DC, according to IT chief Steve Foreman, speaking at the Green IT ’09 conference in London, on Thursday.

…According to Foreman, the organisation is also looking at other ways to improve the efficiency of its high performance computing systems – used for weather modelling – such as increasing the temperature in its data centres.

That last bit is becoming quite popular; you’ll recall that Pete Beckman at ANL’s Leadership Computing Facility is doing the same thing with much success. Still, the UK Met is warning everyone (ahead of time for a change) that even though they are doing what they can, supercomputing still takes a lot of power

“Our supercomputers use something like 40 to 50 percent of our entire electricity usage in the organisation at the moment – that is about to go up to 80 percent,” he admitted. “Its going up because in order to provide more accurate weather information we need more computing power. We are getting more calculations per watt but the demand for calculations far exceeds the rate at which the suppliers are able to reduce the power power consumption.”


  1. […] InsideHPC points out, the move is similar to efforts deployed by Argonne National Laboratory’s Leadership […]