The new supercomputers at Météo-France

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Posted on 05 March 2014 by Pierre Picard

French weather forecasting agency Météo-France is undertaking to reinforce its High-Performance Computing (HPC) systems – spanning the period from March 2013 to April 2014 – that will multiply its current computing power by a factor of 12. A further boost to its HPC resources is planned for 2016: which will multiply actual computing power by another three times. Since mid-January 2014, the agency’s operational forecasting processes have been running on the new HPC system. With the increase in computing power, new and much more efficient forecasting processes will be brought in (especially in terms of resolution), initially in research mode during 2014 and then in operational mode from 2015.

Météo-France controls the entire forecasting chain; from initial observations to analysis of the results by weather forecasters. The agency develops its own models for forecasting and climate, and studies climate change both at a global and local scale. So its supercomputers work in real time to meet forecasting needs. They are also used to reconstruct past climatic conditions from archives of observations and to simulate future developments. Finally, they are used in research into atmospheric phenomena.

The new computer system was chosen as the result of a tendering process involving many of the world’s leading players in HPC. The most effective and competitive offering within the budget set by Météo-France was the one submitted by Bull.

Benefits for all groups of users

Reducing the grid size used by the AROME software from 2.5 km to 1.3 km and, to a lesser extent, the increase in the number of observations taken into account, will improve the quality of forecasts for rain storms (intensity and location, gusts of winds associated with thunderstorms), wind in areas of high ground and, more modestly, temperature at ground level, low-level clouds and fog (location, and time of formation and dissipation).

Increasing the available computing power will help improve operational forecasting, which will benefit all groups of users:

  • Institutions (the government departments responsible for civil defense, flood prevention and air quality, the Ministry of Defense…)
  • Aviation users (air navigation departments, airport operators, airlines, light aviation …)
  • Corporate customers in various sectors including energy, transport, civil engineering and construction, agriculture…
  • The general public.

In the field of climate research

The increased computing power will also improve the resolution and complexity of the agency’s ‘earth system’ model. The interactions between the climate and the chemical composition of the atmosphere, the polar ice caps and the carbon cycle will also be better represented.

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