United Kingdom

Met Office 'to give forecasts from abroad' with £1.2 billion energy-guzzling supercomputer

Bosses at the Met Office are said to want to house half a £1.2 billion new supercomputer system outside the UK, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

Well-placed sources say the forecasting set-up will be the most advanced in the world, but there are fears that the huge amount of energy it uses will torpedo the service’s public stance on fighting climate change.

‘The electricity this thing will use will be so massive that they want to house half of the technology somewhere like Norway where they have cleaner energy,’ one insider said.

The Met Office’s current system, which uses enough energy to power 1,500 homes, can predict where it will rain, sleet, snow or shine to an accuracy of about one square mile across most of the UK

Norway gets 99 per cent of its energy from 31 hydropower plants, whereas only a fifth of the UK’s supply is from renewable sources. 

Another option is Iceland, where about 85 per cent of energy comes from geothermal plants, hydropower, solar panels and wind farms.

The Met Office’s current system, which uses enough energy to power 1,500 homes, can predict where it will rain, sleet, snow or shine to an accuracy of about one square mile across most of the UK.

This target area is reduced to 300 square yards in London to improve forecasts around the major airports.

Well-placed sources say the forecasting set-up will be the most advanced in the world, but there are fears that the huge amount of energy it uses will torpedo the service’s public stance on fighting climate change

It is hoped that the supercomputer, six times more powerful, will predict the weather with an accuracy of 100 square yards.

Experts also expect seven-day forecasts will be as accurate as five-day ones are now, which will boost the economy by giving the country more time to plan for severe weather.

A Met Office spokesman said: ‘Most of our experts and scientists remain based in the UK – with modern technology, supercomputing doesn’t need to be located in the same building. 

'The outcome of the procurement, which is still unknown, will determine whether any of the new capability will be outside the UK.’

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