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Joining forces in weather forecasting and climate research

Met Éireann has joined forces with the National Weather Services of Denmark, Iceland and the Netherlands to jointly operate a new supercomputer that will bring significant advancements to short-term weather forecasting.

Wednesday 10th November 2021 – Today on World Science Day, Met Éireann announced that it is to join forces with national weather services in Denmark, Iceland and the Netherlands, to jointly operate a new supercomputer that will bring significant advancements to short-term weather forecasting.

As well as taking short-term weather forecasting to the next level, the new multimillion High-Performance Computer built by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) will be used to advance climate science research, supporting our Governments’ and businesses with long-term decisions and policy-making as we continue to prepare for and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

With global temperatures projected to increase further over the next decades, weather patterns are expected to become more extreme and more challenging to forecast.  The “United Weather Centres-West” collaboration is a scientific and technical response to this challenge, with four countries jointly operating a supercomputer that will allow more timely and accurate weather forecasts and warnings to help protect life and property.

Planned to be operational by early 2023, the new supercomputer will provide high-resolution weather forecasts that will be used to:

  • Provide more accurate and timely weather warnings that will allow our emergency services to prepare for potential impacts of severe weather;
  • Help people and communities make better decisions to protect lives, homes and businesses when impacted by extreme weather events such as heatwaves, flooding or heavy snow;
  • Enable the agricultural sector to make earlier decisions to protect and better manage their crops and livestock;
  • Provide more timely and focused information to marine communities;
  • Support the transport and energy sectors with more detailed and timely weather information to allow increased economic and environmental benefits.

An ambitious and necessary collaboration

The collaboration between Met Éireann, the Danish Meteorological Institute, Icelandic Meteorological Office and the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, is part of the “United Weather Centres-West” initiative.  This is part of a broader collaboration between ten national weather services in Europe, known as United Weather Centres (UWC), which plans to operate a common multi-national weather forecasting system by the end of the decade.

Minister O’Brien from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, said: “As we continue to see the impacts of extreme weather from a changing climate both around the world and closer to home, it has never been more important to provide accurate and timely weather information. 

“With Met Éireann uniting their scientific expertise and excellence in numerical weather prediction with the national weather services in Denmark, Iceland and the Netherlands, we will be able to provide more efficient and reliable weather forecasts and warnings to all our citizens to help them make better decisions to protect lives, homes and property”.

Uniting our expertise in one High-Performance Computer

Modern weather forecasting is based on Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) which requires vast amounts of data from weather observations, atmospheric conditions and satellite imagery, as well as significant processing power only available through High Performance Computing (HPC).  By combining our national resources, the new UWC-West supercomputer will represent a huge leap in weather forecasting capabilities to each country – it will perform 4,000 trillion calculations per second and handle millions of weather observations every 24 hours – this will produce detailed weather forecasts every hour, which is especially critical ahead of severe weather.

Eoin Moran, Director of Met Éireann, said: “The UWC-West supercomputer is the first step in a powerful collaboration between weather services in Europe which will allow Ireland to meet the growing challenge of forecasting high impact weather events with much greater confidence. Our countries have a long history of working together in weather prediction research. Denmark, The Netherlands, Iceland and Ireland bound the North East Atlantic Area and are now combining resources to best predict the weather that impacts this region. This is particularly important in the context of the influence of climate change on the predictability of weather systems as the new supercomputer will allow for the incorporation of the most up to date weather forecasting methodologies.”

A sustainable solution

Powered entirely by renewable Icelandic hydropower and geothermal energy sources and taking advantage of the local temperate climate that will keep the supercomputer components cool, the running costs and CO2 footprint will be kept to a minimum, saving tonnes of CO2 in line with the four nations’ commitments towards net-zero.

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