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The Met Office, home of UK weather forecasting, is getting a shiny new supercomputer from IBM.

The £33m contract with IBM, which covers maintenance, support and a mid-life upgrade, will run until 2013. The machine should have total peak performance of 1 Petaflop by 2011 - some 30 times more powerful than the Met's current supercomputer, a cluster of NEC SX-8 machines which replaced a Cray in 2004.

The new cluster should improve weather forecasting and allow more use of "ensembles" - multiple simultaneous forecasts which make it easier to give earlier warnings of "low probability, high-impact weather".

The Met Office will also use the machine for researching climate change. A discrete part of the machine will be used for collaborative research along with the Natural Environment Research Council.

Once up and running the computer is expected to be the second most powerful in the UK, behind the University of Edinburgh's Hector machine. It will also be in the top 20 supercomputers worldwide. ®

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