U.S. to triple operational weather and climate supercomputing capacity

Com­pu­ting upgrade paves way for plan­ned model impro­ve­ments

Febru­a­ry 20, 2020 — The United Sta­tes is rec­lai­ming a glo­bal top spot in high-per­for­mance com­pu­ting to sup­port wea­ther and cli­ma­te fore­casts. NOAA, part of the Depart­ment of Com­mer­ce, today announ­ced a signi­fi­cant upgrade to com­pu­ting capa­ci­ty, sto­rage space, and inter­con­nect speed of its Wea­ther and Cli­ma­te Ope­ra­tio­nal Super­com­pu­ting Sys­tem. This upgrade keeps the agency’s super­com­pu­ting capa­ci­ty on par with other lea­ding wea­ther fore­cast cen­ters around the world.

We are com­mit­ted to put Ame­ri­ca back on top of inter­na­tio­nal lea­ders­hip with the best wea­ther fore­casts, powe­red by the fas­test super­com­pu­ters and world-class wea­ther models,” said Neil Jacobs, Ph.D., acting NOAA admi­nis­tra­tor. 

Two new Cray com­pu­ters, an ope­ra­tio­nal pri­ma­ry and back­up, will be loca­ted in Manas­sas, Vir­gi­nia, and Phoe­nix. The com­pu­ters — each with a 12 peta­flop capa­ci­ty — will be ope­ra­tio­nal and rea­dy to imple­ment model upgrades by ear­ly 2022 after a peri­od of code migra­ti­on and tes­ting. They will replace the exis­ting Cray and Dell sys­tems, “Luna” and “Mars” in Res­ton, Vir­gi­nia, and “Sur­ge” and “Venus” in Orlan­do, Flo­ri­da.  

Cou­pled with NOAA’s rese­arch and deve­lo­p­ment super­com­pu­ters in West Vir­gi­nia, Ten­nes­see, Mis­sis­sip­pi, and Colo­ra­do, which have a com­bi­ned capa­ci­ty of 16 peta­flops, the super­com­pu­ting capa­ci­ty sup­por­ting NOAA’s new ope­ra­tio­nal pre­dic­tion and rese­arch will be 40 peta­flops.

This incre­a­se in high-per­for­mance com­pu­ting will trip­le the capa­ci­ty and dou­ble the sto­rage and inter­con­nect speed, allowing NOAA to unlock pos­si­bi­li­ties for bet­ter fore­cast model gui­d­ance through hig­her-reso­lu­ti­on and more com­pre­hen­si­ve Earth-sys­tem models, using lar­ger ensem­bles, advan­ced phy­sics, and impro­ved data assi­mi­la­ti­on.

The new com­pu­ters will pro­vi­de ope­ra­tio­nal capa­ci­ty to imple­ment rese­arch and deve­lo­p­ment advan­ce­ments made under NOAA’s emer­ging Earth Pre­dic­tion Inno­va­ti­on Cen­ter (EPIC) to make the U.S. Glo­bal Fore­cast Sys­tem the best model in the world.

Through EPIC, we have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to regain our foo­ting as a world lea­der in glo­bal wea­ther pre­dic­tion. NOAA is exci­ted for the incredi­ble oppor­tu­ni­ty ahead to part­ner with uni­ver­si­ty and indus­try sci­en­tists and engi­neers to advan­ce U.S. nume­ri­cal wea­ther pre­dic­tion, and this super­com­pu­ter upgrade lays the foun­da­ti­on for that to hap­pen,” added Jacobs.  

EPIC is a joint effort across the Wea­ther Enter­pri­se to advan­ce ope­ra­tio­nal mode­ling skill by making it easier for deve­lo­pers across all sec­tors to col­la­bo­ra­te on impro­ving the nation’s wea­ther and cli­ma­te models. This approach lever­a­ges com­bi­ned skills and resour­ces, and lowers bar­ri­ers for inter­ac­tion and shared ide­as through the use of cloud com­pu­ting and a com­mu­ni­ty mode­ling approach cal­led the Uni­fied Fore­cast Sys­tem­off­si­te link. 

The Natio­nal Wea­ther Ser­vice ran a com­pe­ti­ti­ve acqui­si­ti­on to ensu­re we have the super­com­pu­ting power nee­ded to imple­ment all the gre­at mode­ling advan­ce­ments we anti­ci­pa­te over the next several years,” said Lou­is W. Uccel­li­ni, Ph.D., direc­tor of the Natio­nal Wea­ther Ser­vice. “This is an exci­ting time for all of us in the wea­ther rese­arch and ope­ra­ti­ons com­mu­ni­ty, with bold chan­ges on the hori­zon. We are making sure NOAA is rea­dy.”

NOAA con­duc­ted a full and open com­pe­ti­ti­on to award the con­tract with CSRA LLC, a Gene­ral Dyna­mics Infor­ma­ti­on Tech­no­lo­gy com­pa­ny. The con­tract pro­vi­des for an 8‑year base with a 2‑year optio­nal rene­wal. The first task order on the con­tract covers pro­ducts and ser­vices for the first five years, after which NOAA will work with the con­trac­tor to plan the next upgrade pha­se, ensu­ring acqui­si­ti­on of the best sys­tem money can buy in the mar­ket­place that is tailo­red to meet the agency’s chan­ging needs. The con­tract pro­vi­des a total mana­ged ser­vice approach and CSRA owns and will pro­vi­de all sup­plies and ser­vices, inclu­ding labor, faci­li­ties, and com­pu­ting com­pon­ents.