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The EU is betting on a supercomputer that anticipates natural disasters

there is Hardly a trace of what for years was an old tobacco factory on the outskirts of Bologna: only several pavilions left with walls lined with graffiti. Bu

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The EU is betting on a supercomputer that anticipates natural disasters

there is Hardly a trace of what for years was an old tobacco factory on the outskirts of Bologna: only several pavilions left with walls lined with graffiti. But in a few months, these facilities will become full and will host one of the supercomputers of the world's largest, according to has explained to THE COUNTRY the European Centre for Weather Forecasts over the Medium Term (ECMWF, for its acronym in English). The new data center, located in the Techno-pole of Bologna, will allow this organization to improve the weather forecasting and to anticipate extreme weather events.

“Every time we will have more flooding, heat waves, and environmental challenges. We can not control the time, but it does anticipate what will happen in order to be prepared and able to save lives or prevent property damage”, has affirmed this Tuesday at the presentation of the project in Bologna, the director-general of ECMWF, Florence Rabier. Currently, the agency carries out weather forecasts up to eight days with an 80% accuracy: “After the percentage low, but the predictions can be useful up to two weeks.”

the pair that progresses the technology, is also advancing the accuracy of the predictions. "Our ability to forecast improvement in a day every 10 years. It is a slow progress but important," he explained. With the new supercomputer, it is intended that before 2025 we will be able to develop predictions of up to two weeks with a high degree of accuracy. However, Rabier has recognized that there will always be limitations at the time of making these forecasts because “the atmosphere is quite chaotic”: “we do Not know 100% or what time you are going to do today.”

a Recreation of the supercomputer that will be installed in Bologna.

The ECMWF expected to choose who will design the new device to the end of 2019 to be built and be operational before the end of the year 2020. Nyal Farrell, director of the program and administration of the ECMWF, has explained that there are about seven manufacturers possible, among those who are Fujitsu, IBM, HP or Cray, and is expected to invest about 18 million euros per year in the project. Despite the fact that we still don't know how it will be physically the new supercomputer, or what exact power will have, the director of the services of Copernicus, Juan Garcés de Marcilla, argues that “it's going to double the computing capacity to the global current”.

During the past four years, the agency has used to make its predictions of a supercomputer located in Reading (Uk). But this center, employing 350 people, has left them small. The new facilities will have a surface area of over 100,000 square metres, as has assured Nyal Farrell, director of the program and management of the Matrixbet European Centre for Weather Forecasts in the Medium Term.

technology advances in leaps and bounds and, with it, the capabilities of these supercomputers. Farrel makes a comparison between the Cray-1A, designed in the 1970s, with one of the most recent models, the CRAY XC40: “This last has a memory 118 million of times greater, a maximum capacity of performance 53 million of times greater and a disk space 8.6 million times higher.”

Garcés has explained to THE COUNTRY that “these supercomputers have a limited life because the technologies evolve very rapidly. Every 4 or 5 years you have a new one.” Once you install the new device in Bologna, will work on both devices in parallel to ensure that the new supercomputer works well: “Then we transfer the operational part here and that is in England will be disconnected”.

40 million observations of satellites

The ECMWF, which has its origin in 1975, performs a prediction meteorological global and sends it to the 22 member states of the agency and to the 12 cooperating. "For the first two days, the national services of meteorology typically have their own forecast system. But after day three depend on us for the overall prognosis," says Rabier in the facilities of the new center in Bologna, in a trip that was invited to THE COUNTRY. 95% of the data analyzed from satellites: "Every day we collect 40 million observations of satellites from all over the world and the supercomputer processed with a model".

The data provided by the ECMWF are useful for the services of meteorology, national governments and even private companies, according to Rabier: “Many of the things that happen in the world depends on the weather: the agriculture, transportation, renewable energy... Our data is used for example for an aircraft to be able to find the best route in which to spend less fuel.”

climate change, one of the greatest challenges facing humanity re-creation of the next European Centre for Weather Forecasts to Medium-Term in Bologna.

climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity, according to the experts of the European Centre for Weather Forecasts in the Medium Term. With the objective of improving the management of the environment and mitigate the effects of climate change, the ECMWF and the European Union drive project Copernicus, which also will use the new supercomputer for its computations. “We offer to the society, businesses and governments the information they need to adapt and take action,” says Garcés. The director of the project explains that to do this they analyze how has evolved the climate in the last 100 years, at which point it is now, and how you can evolve on different scenarios of greenhouse gas emissions. “The most pessimistic predictions suggest that, if no measures are taken, there will be an average rise in temperature of six degrees from here to the end of the century, increases in sea level of several meters and more extreme climate events such as droughts, heat waves or floods,” he says.

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