India on Tuesday commissioned a nearly 7 peta-flop super-computer - one of the most powerful in the world and fastest in the country - in order to come out with block-level weather forecast later this year.
The new super-computer has two nodes - a 4 peta-flop machine at Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune and a 2.8 peta-flop high performance computer at the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting at Noida, a satellite township of Delhi.
A petaflop computer can perform one quadrillion (one thousand trillion) operations per second. A power guzzler, it requires one mega watt of electricity on full load.
The new facility would be used to generate weather forecast at the subdivision level, which means alerts on temperature, rainfall and extreme events for 6,500 such blocks.
"The HPC project cost us Rs 450 crore and we intend to start the block level forecast by June 2018," Union Science Minister Harsh Vardhan said after inaugurating the NCMRWF node in Noida. The other node at the IITM was commissioned on January 8.
Currently such forecasts are available at the district level though 130 agro-meteorological field units.
The weather agency prepared experimental forecasts for 12 km x 12 km patches of land for some of the sub-division. Now operational forecast will be made for 115 sub-division to start with and expanded later.
The new facility would come handy for the monsoon forecast as well. "For the long-range forecast, the forecast team would utilise the IITM node (named Pratyush), while for daily updates, the NCMRW (Mihir) unit would be used," M Rajeevan, secretary in the Ministry of Earth Sciences told DH.
The super-computer is also likely to give a better forecast for extreme weather events for a city and help improve the alerts for the civil aviation sector.
"We would also be using the new high-performance computing system for water resource management for 146 river sub-basins. This would aid the Central Water Commission in its flood forecast," said K J Ramesh, director general, India Meteorological Department.
The super-computer was purchased from the US giant Cray, which was also the supplier of India's first supercomputer in the 1980s.
In those days, there were a lot of restrictions from the US company, which feared that the super-computer might be used for defence R&D. "Those days are gone. There is no restrictions now. Other US companies also responded to the tender," Rajeevan said.
NCMRWF currently operates a 350 tera-flop IBM machine named Bhaskara.
A teraflop machine can carry out one million million operations per second and a grade lower than a peta-flop instrument.