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Outlook good as supercomputer takes on weather forecasting

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The Swiss National Supercomputing Center (CSCS) is hoping to revolutionise weather forecasting by building Europe’s fastest GPU-accelerated scientific supercomputer, which it hopes will predict local and national weather patterns days, or even weeks, ahead of time with the highest degree of accuracy.

One of Europe’s top institutions for computational research, CSCS is working with MeteoSwiss, Switzerland’s national weather service, to build the 'Piz Daint' system, named after a mountain in the Swiss Alps.

The Cray XC30 supercomputer will be extended with GPU accelerators to dramatically expand the breadth and depth of the centre’s research and discovery in climate and weather modelling, as well as a host of other fields, such as astrophysics, materials science and the life sciences.

With Nvidia Tesla K20X GPU accelerators, Piz Daint will have more than a petaflop of performance – that’s 1,000 trillion floating point operations per second – making it one of Europe’s fastest GPU-based systems when it becomes operational in early 2014.

Based on the Nvidia Kepler architecture – the world’s fastest and most energy-efficient high-performance computing architecture – the Tesla GPUs will dramatically accelerate performance at an affordable cost. This is key as running complex, compute-intensive simulations of large-scale environmental phenomenon accurately takes massive computing resources.

'Piz Daint will help advance our research into alpine climate and weather patterns by leaps and bounds,' said Thomas Schulthess, director of CSCS. 'With GPU acceleration, researchers can run many more sophisticated, ultra-high-resolution models, giving us an unprecedented level of visibility and understanding into how these systems work.'