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Supercomputer to drive Europe weather forecasts from Italy

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Staff Writer | March 3, 2017
Europe weather center
Technology   Medium-range Weather Forecasts

The next-generation supercomputer that will drive Europe’s medium-range weather forecasts looks set to be housed in Bologna, Italy, from 2020.

It would succeed the current system based in Reading, UK. Member states of the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) made the indicative decision to relocate the facility.

Detailed negotiations will now be held with Italian authorities. The intention is to confirm the choice in June.

That is the date of the next full Council meeting of the ECMWF.

The bid from Italy's Emilia-Romagna Region to erect a new €50m (£43m) building on the site of an old tobacco factory was regarded as the leading contender, according to an evaluation panel.

A proposal from Finland is back-up should the legal, financial and technical discussions over the next few months suddenly fall over

The ECMWF is an independent intergovernmental organisation supported by 22 full member states from Europe, with another 12 co-operating nations.

Its supercomputer system ingests weather observations to run models that construct forecasts out to 15 days ahead.

These forecasts are then shared with the member national meteorological agencies, such as Meteo France and the UK's Met Office.

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.

"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."


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