Supercomputing the weather with 'Thor' | 8/29/2017 | Staff
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The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center here acquired a supercomputer that is the latest step in a long-running weather prediction arms race.

The system, named Thor, models global weather patterns and provides individual air bases and army units with specific forecasts for areas as small as 17 square kilometers. The computer system is comprised of nearly 1,000 individual blade servers. When constructed in May 2016, Thor was the 150th most powerful supercomputer on earth, according to TOP500, which rates supercomputer speeds.

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"Knowing accurate weather forecasts has always been a military imperative," said Dr. Frank Ruggiero, Thor's lead engineer at AFLCMC-Offutt AFB, Nebraska, where the system is located. "Going back to D-Day, one of the major reasons that operation was successful was surprise. That surprise was generated partially because the Germans did not have accurate reads on weather in the North Atlantic. They thought we couldn't invade June 6, 1944, because the weather wasn't good enough."

Today, accurate weather modeling is dependent on a few major factors. Initial data gathering via satellite, buoys and ground weather stations provides current weather conditions at the point of collection. The ability to compile that data is a second step. The final step relies on some of the largest computing centers on earth to crunch composite conditions and forecast the likely future state of the weather. This third step is where Thor comes in.

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Prior to acquiring Thor, Army and Air Force weather predictions...
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