Weather simulation moves to the continent

Weather and climate simulation services could soon be run in Europe rather than the UK as it was announced that the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) is proposing to move its supercomputing capabilities to a new data centre located in Italy.

The ECMWF council comprised of the 22 member states met at the end of last month to consider proposals to host ECMWF’s data centre. This meeting took place at the end of an evaluation process by a panel of international experts and representatives who reviewed bids on criteria ranging from financial and technical aspects and environmental impact to capability to deliver the new data centre.

Ultimately the evaluation found that the current data centre could not meet future targets laid out by the ECMWF.

ECMWF’s Director-General Florence Rabier stated: ‘It has been clear for a while now that the current data centre facility does not offer the required flexibility for future growth and changes in high-performance computing (HPC) technology. As laid out in our 2025 Strategy launched last September, we believe that continuing to improve weather predictions relies heavily on our ability to support our science with proportionate computing power. Intermediary goals to 2020 already require that the Centre’s next supercomputers should provide a tenfold increase in our computational capacity. The three key components that will make up this increase are technology developments, scalability efficiency gains and additional processors.

The Italian proposal comes from the Emilia-Romagna Region in Italy and would see the future ECMWF data centre located in the ‘Tecnopolo di Bologna’.

Rabier explained that the decision to move is necessitated by the lack of space and scope for further upgrades at the exisiting site. ‘This latter point would require a significant expansion of our current data centre infrastructure, which unfortunately cannot be achieved in our current location. It is this constraint that triggered the process to identify a new site. I was impressed by the quality of all the proposals we have received, and I now look forward to starting discussions with the Italian Government.’

Following the recommendation of its Evaluation Panel that the Italian proposal is considered the best the Council mandated Director-General Florence Rabier to prepare a high-level agreement with the Italian Government, for approval by Council at its next session.

The ECMWF is an independent intergovernmental organisation founded in 1975 and supported by 34 states. This includes 22 member states who make up the ECMWF Council, the organisation's governing body. In addition to weather forecasting the centre also provides scope for scientific research and archiving of meteorological data.

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