Everyone is accustomed to seeing the daily weather forecasts that are delivered by presenters each and every day on the lunch or evening news, however few consider just what it takes to deliver such forecasts. So here we take a look into the multi-million pound world of the supercomputers that provide for the seriously crunched data in order to even tell us whether the sun will be shining when we wake in the morning.
Weather supercomputers: A quick overview
Supercomputers provide for data crunching on unbelievable scales. They fill entire rooms that may be as large as a football pitch and they continually work through complex equations based upon current and emerging weather patterns, whilst also being privy to previous weather that informs the data that is outputted.
The Met Office supercomputer
The Met Office supercomputer is the most well-known within the UK and has been responsible for serving up weather forecasts for well in advance of five decades.
Today the Met Office’s supercomputer has recently undergone a £97 million upgrade and is 13 times more powerful than the computer previous to the tech upgrade. This technical overhaul was, in part, funded by the government, who utilise the supercomputer’s services far beyond that of the teatime forecast. In fact, it has been estimated that the computer will deliver £2bn worth of socio-economic benefits over the coming years in helping shape governmental and local authority responses to weather conditions, whilst equally helping people to better protect their homes and businesses.
“We are a country fascinated by the weather, so it’s no surprise that from early barometers to this weather supercomputer, we’ve always led the way in developing technology to predict the weather”.
- Danny Alexander, Previous Chief Secretary to the Treasury
That all said however this impressive, somewhat national computing treasure, has recently hit the headlines as losing out on its 93 year contract with the BBC as the weather data provider of choice. And it seems that decision has been met with nothing short of complete dismay with professionals within the industry.
“Nobody knows Britain’s weather better and, during our long relationship with the BBC, we’ve revolutionised weather communication to make it an integral part of British daily life”.
- Steve Noyes, Met Office operations and customer services director
“(I’m) absolutely shattered by it (the news)… We have one of the best Met offices in the world… there won’t be any more accurate (service) from anyone else, far less.”
- Bill Giles, Former BBC Weather presenter
So the future for UK weather forecasting is currently providing for poor visibility with a definite chance of ever more unpredictable forecasts, whether all of which comes into stormy fruition will simply be a matter of time.
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