HPC from A-Z (part 23) - W

W is for weather mapping

From Argentina to Afghanistan, Lisbon to London, and Boston to Beijing, strip away all our cultural differences and you are left with one single unifying trait of humanity: we love to talk about the weather.

Weather by its very nature is unpredictable, and it is this uncertainty that has been a thorn in the side of humanity since the beginning. So, in a similar way that Ancient Greek sailors consulted an oracle for the likelihood of a smooth ocean voyage in 300BC, we now check the weather forecast on our phones before we leave for work in 2011.

Nowadays of course, our ability to predict the weather is significantly more accurate than it was in Ancient Greece, but it is still by no means an exact science.

For The University of Oklahoma, weather forecasting applications put one of the heaviest burdens on its computing resources. These HPC applications help crunch masses of data from satellites and radars, which is then amalgamated throughout the day and processed into a forecast so that hundreds of thousands of Americans know whether to pack an umbrella or sunscreen.

Of course, while the ability to accurately predict the weather can help keep us dry or plan what to do with our long holiday weekends, it also provides a much more important service in helping scientists to predict the occurrence of natural disasters. HPC is crucial for the successful research of severe storm patterns in Oklahoma, the surrounding region, and across the United States, and is literally helping save lives.


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