Met Office signs deal with Microsoft to build forecasting supercomputer

The Met Office has signed a multimillion-pound deal with Microsoft to develop what it claims will be world’s most powerful climate forecasting supercomputer.

It is predicted to be the most advanced supercomputer dedicated to weather and climate, twice as powerful as any other supercomputer in the UK, and will be in the top 25 supercomputers on the planet.

The data it generates will provide more accurate warnings of severe weather, helping to build resilience and protect the UK population, businesses and infrastructure from the impacts of increasingly extreme storms, floods and snow.

The supercomputer will also be used to take forward climate change modelling and will help use the full potential of the Met Office’s global expertise in climate science.

The Met Office said that the precision and accuracy of its modelling will help inform government policy on climate change and help the UK reach net zero by 2050.

Last year the government committed £1.2 billion to developing the state-of-the-art computer.

“This partnership between the Met Office and Microsoft to build the world’s most powerful weather and climate forecasting supercomputer is a ringing endorsement for the UK’s credentials in protecting our environment, as we prepare to host COP26 later this year,” said
Kwasi Kwarteng, business secretary.“The new supercomputer, backed by a billion pound UK government investment, will act as a catalyst for unlocking new skills, technologies and jobs right across our economy – from data scientists to AI experts - all as part of our efforts to build back better and create a cleaner future.”

The computer is expected to be up and running by summer next year.

“We are delighted to be working in collaboration with Microsoft to deliver our next supercomputing capability,” said Penny Endersby, chief executive, Met Office. “Working together we will provide the highest quality weather and climate datasets and ever more accurate forecasts that enable decisions to allow people to stay safe and thrive. This will be a unique capability which will keep not just the Met Office, but the UK at the forefront of environmental modelling and high-performance computing.”

Clare Barclay, chief executive, Microsoft UK, said: “The Met Office has long been synonymous with excellence and innovation in our understanding of the impact of weather and climate. To make progress with the ecological challenges we face requires innovation, technology and partnerships. The potential of the deep expertise, data gathering capacity and historical archive of the Met Office, combined with the sheer scale and power of supercomputing on Microsoft Azure will mean we can improve forecasting, help tackle climate change and ensure the UK remains at the forefront of climate science for decades to come.”

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