Why HPC? Weather Prediction is One of the Many Whys

16 April 2012

Inevitably, when I speak about HPC (supercomputing [petaflops and exaflops], visualization systems, Infinite Computing, etc.), I am asked the following question: Why? (i.e. Why as in why do we need so many flops?) My response always starts with “weather forecasting…” with an emphasis on forecasting such things as hurricanes and tornadoes. Accurate storm predictions can save lives.

The following is a headline from the Friday, 13 April 02012, Arizona Republic: Saturday storms ‘life threatening’.

“We’re quite sure tomorrow will be a very busy and dangerous day in terms of large swathes of central and southern plains.” — National Weather Service (NOAA.gov) via the Arizona Republic

Various news sources reported the following.

National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., which specializes in tornado forecasting, took the unusual step of warning people more than 24 hours in advance of a possible “high-end, life-threatening event.”

The predictions ended up being extremely accurate: Tornadoes hit the midwest part of the United States hard on Saturday and Sunday.

The accuracy of weather forecasting is important because it can save lives. But right now the accuracy is critically important because of the need to establish trust among the populous.

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