Tag: weather

Brits develop supercomputer to moan about next year’s weather

first-ever-fish_665107nUK boffins have developed a supercomputer to help them moan about the weather nearly a year before it happens.

Next to football, the moaning about the weather is the most popular sport in the UK and also one where they still are better than anyone else in the world. So the UK government thought it would be a wizard wheeze to splash out on a new super computer which enabled weather people to predict the weather a year in advance.

In October 2014 the government confirmed its investment of £97 million in a new high performance computing facility for the Met Office.

Now apparently the first phase of this supercomputer has gone live.  A spokesman for the Met Office said that turning research into highly detailed operational forecasts and services will enable us to produce innovative forecasts – for example focussing high resolution models on strategically important infrastructure such as airports and flood defences.

More detailed forecasts will make it possible to predict small-scale, high impact weather features with greater skill, such as thunderstorms that have the potential to lead to flash flooding.

The computer is based at the Exeter Science Park. It will run a project called the Earth System Model which captures all major aspects of the Earth’s climate system  – oceans, atmosphere, atmospheric chemistry, terrestrial carbon cycle and ocean biogeochemistry.

It can improve UK environmental prediction by using weather forecasting models together with other detailed prediction models, such as for flooding, coastal and river impacts, and atmospheric dispersion – used for volcanic ash, disease spread.

In the study paper entitled, Skilful predictions of the winter North Atlantic Oscillation one year ahead, the forecast researchers claim that new supercomputer-powered techniques have helped them develop a system to accurately predict North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) – the climatic phenomenon which heavily impacts winters in the UK.

Using a ‘hindcasting’ technique, the researchers discovered that since 1980 the supercomputer would have been able to predict winter weather a year in advance with 62 percent accuracy.

Thunderstorm hits Microsoft’s Windows 10 nagware

live_tv_windows_10Microsoft’s Windows 10 nagware is making a public idiot of the company and rendering the software customers have paid for unfit for the purpose.

The latest public humiliation of the company happened during a live TV weather forecast. Instead of the weather map that the television station KCCI wanted, the screen was full of a demand that meteorologist Metinka Slater upgrade to Windows 10 immediately.

Slater was busy trying to warn the good and the bad citizens of Iowa about thunderstorms rolling through Iowa, which was a little more important than a software upgrade.

“Microsoft recommends upgrading to Windows 10. Gosh, what should I do?” Slater asked the viewing public.  Upgrading to Linux instead perhaps? Certainly a TV company can’t risk being seen as being that unprofessional ever again.

Microsoft is increasingly alienating people from its Windows 10 operating system with these sorts of antics. Forced upgrades of any sort are a pain.  We know this because even after you upgrade to Windows you are forced to upgrade on demand even when you do not have enough disk space.  Windows 10 wants to upgrade itself every morning and fills up our hard drive and then insists that it needs 5GB to install itself which the SSD slave drive does not have.

Frankly we hope that the TV Company sues Microsoft, because there does not seem to be any way to make the company understand that nagware on legitimate paid for software is just wrong.

Researchers discover a flaw in weather prediction

While a huge amount of computer processing power is spent predicting the weather, a fair part of that could be going to waste because of software faults.

A study by Korean researchers has found that the flaws in software mean that you might as well predict the weather using tarot cards.

The researchers wanted to look at the simulation results from a global atmospheric numerical model on machines with different hardware and software systems.

Song-You Hong, of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, College of Sciences, Yonsei University, Seoul tested the commonly used global model program and the Global/Regional Integrated Model system on 10 different computer systems with different CPU’s, architectures or compilers.

It was found that each bit of hardware, using the same software, gave a different prediction.

The paper deals with 10-day weather forecasts when weather forecasts are generally done in one hour steps. It assumes that the data from the first hour tended to be right, and was calculated correctly.

It speculates that the reason for the problem is because some parts of the software are rounding up or down incorrectly. Other suggestions are that there are approximations in built-in functions.

This problem becomes more marked over time so that on the tenth day the result is so realistic that it is predicting that Daenerys Targaryen will be invading the North-west of England with an army of dragons on Tuesday with thundery squalls of badgers off the Orkney and Shetland Islands by Wednesday. 

CIA investigates weather control technology

For years a staple of tin foil hat wearing conspiracy theorists is that the CIA had cracked a way of controlling the weather and was using it to attack people.

It is probably not surprising that they are wrong, but it turns out that the spooks are interested in doing just that.

According to Mother Jones the CIA is funding a scientific study that will investigate whether humans could use geoengineering to alter the Earth’s environment and stop climate change.

The National Academy of Sciences will run the 21-month project which will be the first geoengineering study financially supported by a spying agency.

Researchers will study how humans might influence weather patterns and assess the potential dangers of messing with the climate.

They will also have to look at possible national security implications of geoengineering attempts.

The CIA is spending $630,000 on the concept. It closed its research centre on climate change and national security last year, after GOP members of Congress argued it was a subject the CIA shouldn’t be looking at.

The researchers are looking for a “technical evaluation of a limited number of proposed geoengineering techniques”.

This will include trying to work out which geoengineering techniques are feasible and try to evaluate the impacts and risks of each.

One method is a study which will look at pumping particles into the stratosphere to reflect incoming sunlight away from the planet.

There is a theory that solar radiation management could lead to a global cooling trend that might reverse, or at least slow down, global warming. There are other plans to look at removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

What is scaring the pants off the spooks is that private individuals or companies might get around to coming up with a solution.

Russ George, the former head of Planktos, a company that works to develop technology to deal with global warming, seeded the Pacific Ocean off western Canada with iron to generate a plankton bloom that, in turn, was supposed to suck up carbon dioxide from the air. 

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