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ECMWF enhance European weather prediction capabilities with new supercomputer

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Atos has signed a four-year contract with the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) to supply a new HPC system that will increase ECMWF’s computing power by a factor of 5 and support hundreds of researchers from more than 30 countries across Europe.

The new system will enable ECMWF researchers to reliably predict the occurrence and intensity of extreme weather events significantly ahead of time, which is essential to understand and respond to the growing severity of climate and weather problems facing the world today.

‘Weather forecasting is computationally intensive and demands the best in high performance computing power’ said Dr Florence Rabier, Director General at ECMWF. ‘This is one of the main reasons we chose Atos. We trust in its ability to supply and integrate the best technologies available, but also in its proven expertise to deliver effective solutions to the weather forecasting community across Europe.  Thanks to this investment, we will now be able to run higher resolution forecasts in under an hour, meaning better information will be shared with our Member States even faster to enable much improved weather forecasts as they combine this enhanced information with their own data and predictions. As governments and society continue to grapple with the impacts of increasingly severe weather, we are also proud to be relying on a supercomputer designed to maximise energy efficiency.’

The contract, worth more than £67.8 million will provide a system based on the BullSequana XH2000 supercomputer. This new system will help to accelerate the ECMWF's work on medium and long-range weather forecasting and prediction.

Once operational, the new supercomputer will allow ECMWF to run its flagship world-wide 15-day ensemble prediction at a higher resolution of around 10km, offering significant improvement in the ability to forecast severe weather events.

Sophie Proust, Atos Group CTO said: ‘We’re really delighted to have been selected by ECMWF for this major contract. This is testament not only to our solid expertise and operational excellence needed to install, manage and run such a large system, but also to the best-of-breed technology which we are supplying, with our BullSequana XH2000 and our partners AMD, Mellanox and DDN. This new solution will optimize ECMWF's current workflow to enable it to deliver vastly improved numerical weather predictions. Most importantly though, this is a long-term collaboration, one in which we will work closely with ECMWF to explore new technologies in order to be prepared for next-generation applications.’

Günther Tschabuschnig, Convener of the ECMWF Technical Advisory Committee which reviewed ECMWF’s HPC selection said: ‘One cannot overestimate the importance of accurate weather prediction.  This has never been truer than in our current age, as the effects of climate change and severe weather are increasingly felt. Individuals and societies need ever greater amounts of information to ensure they are prepared.  Atos brings an impressive track record of success in this field and its background in delivering advanced supercomputing solutions to some of the world’s best meteorological services will ensure we are placed on a firm footing for success.

Atos has successfully deployed BullSequana systems at many leading European supercomputing centres that either undertake production or research work into weather forecasting, earth systems and climate modelling including Meteo France, the German Climate Computing Centre, the Spanish AEMet, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and Plymouth Marine Laboratory in the UK.  Atos is also a partner of the ECMWF and other national weather centres in the ESCAPE2 and ESIWACE2 European projects developing next generation weather models which contribute to informing the future of atmospheric sciences.

Based in Reading in the UK, ECMWF is an independent intergovernmental organisation supported by 34 Member and Co-operating States across Europe and holds the largest archive of numerical weather prediction data in the world. The system will be delivered and installed at the ECMWF data centre in Bologna, Italy in 2020, with service commencing in 2021. Atos will work locally with E4 Computer Engineering to manage, run and maintain the system.