NAL to build India’s fastest supercomputer for weather forecasts

NAL to build India’s fastest supercomputer for weather forecasts
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First Published: Mon, Jun 23 2008. 10 54 PM IST
Updated: Mon, Jun 23 2008. 10 54 PM IST
Bangalore: An arm of India’s biggest research agency, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), is building the country’s most powerful supercomputer to forecast localized weather phenomena with greater accuracy.
The 10-teraflop supercomputer being built by the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) will be 10 times more powerful than the US-built Cray supercomputer in use at the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF), based in the Delhi suburb of Noida.
A teraflop machine does one trillion calculations per second.
The machine is expected to be ready by 2009. “It is more versatile, (will provide) better accuracy and modelling (of weather data),” said A.R. Upadhya, director of NAL.
A scientist at the NCMRWF , who did not want to be named, said a country as large as India that experiences complex weather patterns because of monsoon vagaries needs more powerful machines and also trained personnel to use the machines.
“For (building) new models, you need people who understand them (supercomputers),” he said.
The new supercomputer, which is to be linked with the proposed integrated Indian weather forecasting system, could help in both long-range forecasts and short-range predictions of extreme weather events such as the early monsoon being witnessed in parts of India.
The country is also launching new remote-sensing satellites such as Megha Tropiques and Oceansat to understand cloud patterns around the tropics, crucial to provide accurate weather forecasts.
More localized weather forecast models would help in predicting unusual phenomena such as the heavy July 2005 downpour in Mumbai which flooded the nation’s financial capital.
“Because it (will be) faster, it will also bring down the time (required for weather) forecast,” said R.C. Bhatia, former chief of the India Meteorological Department, or IMD, the agency that disseminates weather forecasts.
NAL, the Bangalore lab that focuses on aerospace research, has been working on supercomputers for nearly two decades.
The sixth version of such a machine has been able to predict the monsoon’s advance using an indigenous modelling software “Varsha” by at least a month.
Roddam Narasimha, chairman of the engineering mechanics unit at Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), said globally, supercomputers are used primarily for doing complex calculationss in meteorological applications and computational fluid dynamics in the aerospace industry.
“The concepts are similar in both—it (concerns) the flow of air,” said Narasimha, among India’s top aeronautical scientists and a former director of NAL, citing the reason behind the aerospace lab building supercomputers for weather applications.
NAL’s supercomputer will be 10 times less powerful than the world’s fourth largest supercomputer EKA, built by Computational Research Laboratories of the Tata group.
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First Published: Mon, Jun 23 2008. 10 54 PM IST