A sphere with points of blue and purple light over it signifying data

Our supercomputer for weather and climate forecasting

Inside the Met Office Cray XC40 supercomputing hallOur supercomputing system

The Met Office Cray XC40 supercomputing system has been in operation since 2016. It consists of three main systems - an identical pair of machines and a single larger system in a purpose-built data centre nearby. The twin identical machines provide a highly-resilient capability for running time-critical operational weather forecasts. The third system provides research, development and collaboration capabilities.

At the time of its launch, the supercomputing system appeared in the top 50 of the world’s most powerful computers. It has remained one of the top supercomputers dedicated to weather and climate. 

Facts and big numbers

Our three main supercomputing systems:

  • are capable of more than 14,000 trillion arithmetic operations per second. That’s more than two million calculation per second for every man, woman and child on the planet.
  • contain two petabytes of memory, enough to hold 200 trillion numbers.
  • contain 24 petabytes of storage for saving data - enough to store over 100 years’ worth of HD movies.
  • contain a total of 460,000 compute cores. These are faster than those found in a typical quad-core laptop.

This power allows us to obtain 215 billion weather observations from all over the world every day. Observations are recorded and uploaded into an atmospheric model containing more than a million lines of code, used to create forecasts around the globe. 

What difference has the supercomputer made?

By the end of its life, the supercomputing system will have enabled an additional £2bn of socio-economic benefits across the UK through enhanced prediction of severe weather and related hazards.

This includes benefits to aviation from better forecasting at airports, more sophisticated modelling of flooding, more detailed information for the energy sector and new research on climate impacts to inform long-term planning and action.

Our supercomputing system has helped to unlock new science and to introduce even more detailed forecasts and advice. This information is critical to protecting and saving lives, improving UK resilience to high-impact weather and supporting UK economic growth. 

With greater capacity than our previous system, our supercomputer system has enabled us to extend our forecast lead times, enhancing our severe weather forecasting, and improve the accuracy of our forecasting of small-scale weather such as showers.

Supercomputing enables us to enhance high-resolution climate modelling and to better assess future impacts of a changing climate at a regional scale, especially from high-impact weather. This helps decision-makers gain a better understanding of climate change, its risks, and how we should adapt.

Future technology advances will continue to increase forecasting accuracy and enable more complex and realistic modelling of real-world processes on weather and climate timescales, ensuring the Met Office continues to improve our accuracy and provide more helpful advice.

Image of part of the Cray XC40 supercomputing system