NSF commissions $11 million weather prediction grid

Just as Hurricane Isabel has started to move into the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, the National Science Foundation has awarded $11.25 million to the National Center for Supercomputing Applications to build a grid network that will help researchers study and predict dangerous weather.

The award, announced Sept. 17, will be part of the Linked Environments for Atmospheric Discovery project, in which the NCSA collaborates with the University of Illinois and seven other institutions to develop ways to allow researchers, educators, and students to run realistic real-time atmospheric models.

"Our ultimate goal is to create a system that takes full advantage of all the atmospheric data that is constantly being collected, the power of supercomputers, and the speed of high-performance networks," said Bob Wilhelmson, a senior research scientist at NCSA and a co-principal investigator with the Linked Environments for Atmospheric Discovery project.

According to NSF, today's weather simulation systems run in fixed environments, with a set number of computers. NSF wants NCSA to develop a grid computing platform that can be used by researchers to remotely run weather simulation tests over a network?potentially tapping into much more powerful computers and software. Complex phenomenon like tornadoes could be better analyzed and predicted.

"Being able to analyze this data in real-time and constantly update our models and forecasts could help us pinpoint where a tornado is likely to occur or where a hurricane will hit land," Wilhelmson said.

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications is a high-performance computing center funded by National Science Foundation, the state of Illinois, the University of Illinois, private sector companies and federal agencies. It is located on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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