MPs demand new supercomputer for Met Office

The British weather is as famous for being unpredictable as the Brits are famous for constantly complaining about it.

So, to avoid more washed-out barbeques in gardens across the land during our fleeting summer, MPs are demanding a shiny new weather predicting supercomputer be handed to the Met Office.

According to a report by a group of MPs, the nation needs an upgrade in its ability to predict weather conditions to enable accurate severe weather warnings. And to restore faith in the Met Office after numerous blunders.

In 2009, the media lampooned suggestions about a “Barbeque Summer”, which turned into the annual very-damp squib.

Weather forecasting in Britain has an illustrious history of cock-ups.  The immortal words of Michael Fish denying a hurricane was on it way to the shores of Blighty back in 1987 – it turned out to be the worst in almost 300 years and killed 18 people -are still in the minds of MPs.

To create a more accurate picture of weather conditions, MPs want the Met Office supplied with an upgrade to its current IBM supercomputer for future sooth-saying. Whether IBM’s Watson will be back on the TV – this time as weather man – is unclear.

The Met Office told the Science and Technology Select Committee that scientific advances for greater accuracy are ready, but its technology is just not up to scratch.

The committee claimed that “a step-change in supercomputing capacity” is required and called on the government to finalise plans for further investment.

Forecasting weather involves billion of calculations, and the latest kit should offer top class data modelling.  A new supercomputer would also allow for “operational delivery” of forecasts, with a constant stream of forecast data supplied by the Office.

To regain its place at the forefront of weather, the Met Office wants “a supercomputer with at least twice the capacity of the near one petaflop facility now being implemented”.

This would cost roughly £14 million a year for three years, according to the Met Office.

Both the Met Office and MPs contend that it would mean a significant opportunity to create more funds. The Met Office “could deliver as much as a ten-to-one return on investment” if it is to replace its clapped out IBM system, with the report suggesting £500 million could be recouped.

While a replacement is due to be looked at by 2015, MPs and the Met Office think they need one a lot sooner than that