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Supercomputer tool to predict global weather

It’s as fast as 25,000 high-end laptops linked together. It has enough capacity to store 30 million novels.

And someday, it might help keep you safe in severe weather.

This is the Bluefire, an IBM supercomputer so powerful that scientists think it will accurately predict how global warming will affect the planet during the next 50 years.

Specifically, the computer should project whether hurricanes will develop with greater frequency and more intensity. It also will forecast a host of other conditions, from excessive rains to severe drought.

Its findings should help residents and businesses prepare for hurricanes and other dangerous weather, said Greg Holland, a senior scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

“It will simulate everything from winds to the impact of greenhouse gases,” he said.

The findings, to be outlined in a study, should be released by the middle of next year, Holland said.

In purchasing the $15 million computer, NCAR, a federally funded nonprofit institute, will be able to analyze mountains of weather data in a matter of months, Holland said.

The computer will not try to identify the causes behind global warming because most scientists already presume human activity is partially or substantially to blame, he said.

“The questions now are: How is that warming going to affect hurricanes, how is it going to affect the water supply for the United States, how is it going to affect wind climatology?” he said.

Weighing 23 tons and containing 1,000 miles of copper wiring, the Bluefire can perform 76 trillion operations per second.

It also is highly reliable, an important factor considering it will be asked to work nonstop for months at a time, unlike less advanced computers, said Dave Turek, IBM vice president of deep computing.

“It’s really not cool to be five to six months into a calculation and then the machine stops,” he said.

(c)  2008, Sun Sentinel.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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