High-Performance Computing

Twin Supercomputers Power Weather Forecasting

The weather – it’s something all of us check every day and rely on to help plan and prepare. It’s vital information that also informs how farmers plan for the season, how cities allocate water and energy resources, how emergency management prepares for severe storms and flooding, and even how the Department of Defense conducts operations.

That weather forecast will now become even more accurate and reliable, powered by new twin supercomputers deployed and operated by GDIT for the National Weather Service. On June 28, 2022, the Weather and Climate Operational Supercomputing System (WCOSS) 2 began running the NOAA operational forecast models that are used for accurate and localized weather, water, climate, and space weather forecasts to support the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s weather forecasting mission to protect life and property.

GDIT architected, deployed, operates, and manages the WCOSS 2 twin supercomputers that provide the computation power NOAA needs for complex and intense, real-time modeling of weather and climate data. Each of these new supercomputers provides to NOAA three times more computing power than their predecessors, and currently provides operational capabilities that include:

greater computing power
petaflops of computing power, equating to a million billion computing instructions per second or the computing power of 336,000 laptops
model products produced per day for NOAA
TB of data produced per day for NOAA (1 TB is equivalent to 300 digital pictures per day taken for a year)

The two identical WCOSS 2 supercomputers, called Dogwood and Cactus, are ranked as the 49th & 50th fastest super computers in the world by Top500. To provide greater reliability, the supercomputers are located on opposite sides of the country and on different power grids – in states befitting their names: Dogwood in Virginia and Cactus in Arizona.

The systems’ 300% greater computing power than the previous systems will enable NOAA to run models with greater accuracy and higher fidelity, and process even greater amounts of weather monitoring data. The billions of observations ingested per day include measurements from sensors on the ground, ocean buoys, weather balloons and weather satellites. Models using these data are run at frequencies of every 15 minutes to every 6 hours.

It’s not at all an exaggeration to suggest that the WCOSS team’s mission-critical work affects every citizen in the country, as well as the military, agriculture, and emergency response teams, all of whom depend on accurate and real-time weather data to do their jobs. GDIT's new WCOSS 2 supercomputers will enable future upgrades to NWS weather models that are essential for accurate and timely forecasts and warnings to protect life and property and enhance the American economy.

This work takes on a whole new level of significance as climate change impacts the frequency and severity of severe weather events in the United States and around the world. In the U.S. alone, according to NOAA data, we experienced 18 separate billion-dollar weather disasters in just the first nine months of 2021, totaling more than $104 billion in damages.

As the largest high-performance computing (HPC) systems integrator for the federal government, GDIT and its High-Performance Computing Center of Excellence support complex programs across the civilian, health, defense and intelligence sectors. In addition to WCOSS 2, GDIT currently operates supercomputing environments for NOAA Research and Development; High-End Scientific Computing portfolio of modeling and visualization tools for the Environmental Protection Agency; and the HPC Modernization Office User Productivity Enhancement and Training program for the Department of Defense.