Supercomputer to improve forecasting of lousy German weather

Supercomputer to improve forecasting of lousy German weather
Photo: DPA
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.

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.