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IBM to provide Met Office supercomputer

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The UK Met Office has signed a contract with IBM for its next generation supercomputer that will underpin its weather forecast and climate research programmes until 2013.

The extra computing power means the Met Office can achieve even more accurate and detailed short range weather forecasts through high-resolution computer simulations. It will allow greater use of ensembles — multiple simultaneous forecasts — which means it will be possible to give earlier warning of low probability, high impact weather. The system will also be used to progress research on climate change and its impacts on society and the economy.

John Hirst, Met Office chief executive said: 'In a world where the effect of extreme weather events is becoming more severe and the potential impact of global warming is becoming ever more apparent, the Met Office plays an increasingly vital role in researching and forecasting these events. The new supercomputer is an important step in delivering our strategic targets.'

A discrete part of the system will be used for collaborative scientific research supported by both the Natural Environment Research Council and Met Office.

The new IBM supercomputer is projected to become the second most powerful system in the UK and within the top 20 most powerful systems in the world. It is capable of a peak performance of 125 trillion floating point operations per second. By 2011, the total system is anticipated to have a total peak performance approaching 1 PetaFlop — equivalent to more than 100,000 PCs and more than 30 times more powerful than what is in place today. As part of the agreement, IBM will also provide a mid-life system upgrade, support and maintenance services during the five-year contract.