Met Office 'needs supercomputers'
Published 21/02/2012 | 08:12
The Met Office would be able to issue more confident severe weather warnings and increase its accuracy on long-term forecasts if it had more powerful supercomputers, a group of MPs has said.
A report from the Commons Science and Technology Committee concluded the national forecaster was being "held back by insufficient supercomputing capacity" but acknowledged that affordability was an issue.
The politicians agreed with the findings of a 2010 review which said a "step-change" in favour of the new technology was necessary to improve the accuracy of short and long-range forecasts and climate predictions.
The report said: "It is of great concern to us that scientific advances in weather forecasting and the associated public benefits (particularly in regard to severe weather warnings) are ready and waiting but are being held back by insufficient supercomputing capacity.
"We echo the recent conclusions of the Government Chief Scientific Adviser and others, that a step-change in supercomputing capacity is required. We acknowledge, however, that affordability is an issue."
The Met Office believes there would be "a very rapid" 10-1 return on investment in the computers, which are built to make billions of mathematical calculations as quickly as possible.
Officials at the organisation said it would have been able to make more accurate forecasts in relation to the snowstorms in the south of England in February 2009 and the Cumbrian floods in November 2009 if it had had a greater supercomputer capacity.
The report recommended the Met Office, which provides weather data to the Government and the armed forces, develops a 10-year strategy for supercomputing resources.