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UK to invest £1.2 billion for Supercomputing Weather and Climate Science

Today the UK announced plans to invest £1.2 billion for the world’s most powerful weather and climate supercomputer. With the new machine, predicting severe weather and the impacts of climate change will be faster and more accurate than ever before.

The government investment will replace Met Office supercomputing capabilities over a 10-year period from 2022 to 2032. The current Met Office Cray supercomputers reach their end of life in late 2022. The first phase of the new supercomputer will increase the Met Office computing capacity by 6-fold alone. The Met Office will look to deliver at least a further 3 times increase in supercomputing capacity for years 6-10.

The new supercomputer will also strengthen the UK’s supercomputing and data technology capabilities, driving forward innovation and growing world-class skills across supercomputing, data science, machine learning and artificial intelligence.

This investment will ultimately provide earlier more accurate warning of severe weather, the information needed to build a more resilient world in a changing climate and help support the transition to a low carbon economy across the UK, said Professor Penny Endersby, Met Office Chief Executive. “It will help the UK to continue to lead the field in weather and climate science and services, working collaboratively to ensure that the benefits of our work help government, the public and industry make better decisions to stay safe and thrive.

£1.2 billion refers to the total expected investment from government. The expected contractual value for the supercomputing capability is £854 million. Other costs include investment in the Observations Network, exploiting the capabilities of the supercomputer and the program office costs.

Advancing Weather and Climate Science

Data from this new supercomputer – expected to be the world’s most advanced dedicated to weather and climate – will be used to help more accurately predict storms, select the most suitable locations for flood defences and predict changes to the global climate.

The new supercomputer, to be managed by the Met Office, will also be used to help ensure communities can be better prepared for weather disruption, including through:

  • More sophisticated rainfall predictions, helping the Environment Agency rapidly deploy mobile flood defenses
    better forecasting at airports so they can plan for potential disruption
  • More detailed information for the energy sector to help them mitigate against potential energy blackouts and surges

With the government announcing its Year of Climate Action, the news further demonstrates the UK is leading by example ahead of hosting UN climate conference COP26, where the world will meet to agree more ambitious action.

UK supercomputer breakthroughs

Today, the government also announced £30 million investment for advanced supercomputing services, providing researchers with access to the latest technology and expert software engineers. It will also help them speed up scientific breakthroughs like developing ‘food fingerprinting’ to detect chemical contaminants in food and improving drug design.

The funding will support 7 High Performance Computing services run by universities from across the UK, including Queen’s University Belfast, the University of Edinburgh, and Durham University. The services will provide researchers with invaluable access to powerful systems to support ground-breaking work in areas from Artificial Intelligence, energy storage and supply, and therapeutic drug design, as well as boosting the skills of UK scientists.

The UK government investment in Edinburgh’s supercomputers helps keep our capital at the forefront of cutting edge technology,” said UK government Minister for Scotland Douglas Ross. “The University of Edinburgh facility will benefit scientists from across the UK as they are given the opportunity to use this new technology. This additional funding builds on the work of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal which is creating world-leading hubs for AI research. The UK government is committed to combatting the impact of climate change on top of creating thousands of high-earning jobs and ensuring businesses and public services in the UK are the first to benefit from the latest innovations.”

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