IBM and UCAR collaborate to advance weather science globally through new global model powered by IBM supercomputing

20 Jun 2017 Frankfurt - At the International Supercomputing Conference in Frankfurt, The Weather Company, an IBM Business, has launched a plan to improve weather prediction globally via a new collaboration with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), a federally funded research and development center for the atmosphere and Earth's geospace systems.

The alliance will develop cutting-edge models that will run on next-generation IBM supercomputing technology by bringing together world-class meteorological science from The Weather Company, high performance computing expertise from IBM Research, OpenPOWER-based supercomputing systems and NCAR's community weather model.

This effort will also capitalize on advanced science and technology to produce the first rapidly-updating, storm-scale model that can predict weather events at local scales, including individual thunderstorms. While today's operational global forecast models predict weather patterns down to regional-scale weather events, such as snowstorms and hurricanes, tracking individual thunderstorms is a challenge for today's weather models.

The new model will also cover the entire earth system - providing forecasts to areas of the world that have previously been underserved by existing weather models. This new weather model will push the current boundaries of the possible and give a glimpse into the future of meteorological science.

Supercomputers run weather models, or foundational algorithms, that drive nearly all forecasts today. As two leaders in the weather enterprise, The Weather Company and UCAR will join forces to improve weather models and the supercomputers that they run on.

To enable this new weather modelling capability, IBM and UCAR will engage in system co-design using IBM Power Systems and OpenPOWER technologies to bring unprecedented computational power to bear on advanced weather modelling. This solution will be optimized to run on IBM's next generation POWER9-based systems scheduled to be delivered to first customers at the end of this year.

"IBM is one of only a few organizations in the world that has the capability to develop a model to run at this global, granular scale", stated Mary Glackin, head of weather science and operations for The Weather Company, an IBM Business. "As advocates for science, we embrace strong public-private partnerships that understand the value science brings to society, such as our continued efforts with UCAR to advance atmospheric and computational sciences."

One of the first endeavours under this programme will be to adapt NCAR's Model for Prediction Across Scales (MPAS) community model to run more efficiently on next-generation computers. While regional models have been run at scales that predict thunderstorms for over a decade, the enormity of global models have made this challenging on a global scale. Enabling "convection-allowing models" on a global scale will not only enable short-term thunderstorm forecasts, but also lead to more accurate long-range forecasts days, weeks and months in advance.

The UCAR/NCAR teams involved include the Computational Information System Laboratory and the Mesoscale & Microscale Meteorology Laboratory.

"This is a major public-private partnership that will advance weather prediction and generate significant benefits for businesses making critical decisions based on weather forecasts", stated UCAR President Antonio J. Busalacchi. "We are gratified that taxpayer investments in the development of weather models are now helping U.S. industries compete in the global marketplace."

Source: IBM