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Supercomputer to improve forecasting of lousy German weather

Meteorologists this week booted up one of the fastest supercomputers in the world to improve German weather forecasting – if not Germany's notoriously bad weather.

Supercomputer to improve forecasting of lousy German weather
Photo: DPA

The NEC SX-9, which went into operation at the German Weather Service (DWD) in Offenbach on Thursday, should give meteorologists access to highly-complex weather prediction models.

“Thanks to the enormous capacity of the integrated Ensemble [technology] in processing information, this new supercomputer can handle more physics at once, which makes it easier to predict storm cells, heavy rainfall, hail and strong winds than ever before,” said Dr. Gerhard Steinhorst, head forecasting at DWD. “We can also use this information to improve the DWD’s warning system.”

With a capacity of up to 109 trillion multiplications per second, the supercomputer is one of the fastest vector processors in the world. By 2010, it should have improved upon its predecessor’s processing capacity by a factor of 45.

“Ensemble technology can construct as many as 20 parallel forecasts – rather than just one – each based off a slightly different set of starting conditions,” DWD’s Head of System Administration Henning Weber told The Local.

“The overall result enables meteorologists to more accurately determine the likelihood of a particular weather situation.”

But anyone getting too excited about the new forecasting powerhouse should be reminded that it won’t improve the often atrocious German weather likely to ruin your next weekend barbecue.

“The focus with this machine is creating very, very precise weather forecasts for the next 18 hours, in turn allowing city officials to prepare to streets with salt or de-ice planes,” explained Weber. “Three to five day forecasts are something we hope to improve upon in the future.”

Click here for The Local’s weather forecast.

ENVIRONMENT

German city residents sue government over air pollution

Seven residents in Germany are taking the government to court over the poor air quality around their homes, an organisation representing them said on Monday.

German city residents sue government over air pollution

The residents of Berlin, Duesseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich believe current government legislation is “demonstrably inadequate to protect people’s health”, according to the organisation, Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH).

Levels of particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide in Germany are up to five times higher than the safe levels recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), according to DUH.

The complainants are calling for immediate action to bring about “a reduction in dangerous air pollutants from, among other things, traffic, wood burning and agriculture”, said Juergen Resch, national director of DUH.

“Politicians are doing too little to protect people like me who live on a busy road,” said complainant Volker Becker-Battaglia, from Munich.

This time last year, a new coalition government was elected in Germany on a promise to make environmental concerns one of its top priorities.

READ ALSO: Germany should ditch Christmas lights this year, says environmental group

The Greens entered power for the first time in more than two decades, promising that Germany would end coal power and generate 80 percent of electricity from renewables by 2030.

But since then, climate concerns have been overshadowed by the war in Ukraine, an acute energy crisis and record inflation.

Germany has accelerated plans to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) by sea and has even decided to reactivate mothballed coal-fired power plants.

In 2021, climate activists won a landmark victory in Germany when the constitutional court ruled that the government’s climate plans were insufficient and placed an unfair burden on future generations.

German environmental groups also last year announced a legal offensive against car giants Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW over their emissions.

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