Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Super-computer to give BOM the fine print

A new super-computer, to be acquired by the Bureau of Meteorology, should help Australians better prepare for extreme weather events.

June 4, 2014 3:20am

The machine will enable the bureau to forecast extreme weather events in finer detail, allowing it to predict changes in wind direction to assist firefighters or better track cyclone paths.

It will have the power of 25000 desktop computers and will transmit at 10000 times faster than the average home broadband speed.

The Federal Government has allocated funds for the computer in the budget, but is withholding costings because of the commercial sensitivity of the tender process.

However, it is expected to cost ‘‘many, many tens of millions of dollars’’, Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment Simon Birmingham told a Senate estimates committee last week.

The machine will allow the bureau to produce models every hour — rather than every six hours at present — and enable staff to create specific models for individual weather events.

‘‘So whether we’ve got cyclones, floods, fires, thunderstorms or volcanic ash events to the north happening, we’ll be able to set the model to run a specialised, on-demand forecast for emergency services,’’ the bureau’s director of meteorology Rob Vertessy told the committee.

The technology, which will operate for five years from mid-2016, will be housed in a data centre with ‘‘very high’’ physical and energy security.

Accurate weather forecasting was vital to environmentally sensitive sectors that produced 3.4 per cent of the nation’s GDP and was used to ensure the safety of 1.7 million passenger movements a week in aviation, the committee was told.

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