Met Office forecasters set for 'billion pound' supercomputer

Ever wondered why your village was suddenly flooded by a thunderstorm the weather forecasters hadn't mentioned?

Or why they failed to warn you about the dense fog shrouding your home in the morning?

The fact is that predicting the "big picture" of future conditions has got a lot better - Storm Dennis was spotted six days before it arrived.

But getting local forecasts right - street by street and hour by hour - is still a massive challenge.

And that might now change as the Met Office secures the help of a supercomputer project costing £1.2bn.

Better forecasting means handling more data, more rapidly, and running it through simulations of the atmosphere more accurately.

Already the Met Office is pulling in more than 200 billion observations from satellites, weather stations and buoys out in the ocean every single day, and that's set to increase.

https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/624/cpsprodpb/1A86/production/_110909760_supercomputer.jpg  Met Office / The Met Office's existing supercomputer

And working out if a summer downpour will flood your home or one down the road requires more and more processing power.

"We'll be streets ahead of anybody else," according to Penny Endersby, chief executive of the Met Office.

"Ultimately it'll make a difference to every individual, every government department, every industry as people see forecasts becoming steadily better."

It'll be the biggest investment in the 170-year history of the organisation and will dwarf the £97m bill for the current supercomputer.

In the new project, the billion-plus cost will cover not just the hardware itself but all the running costs too over a ten-year period.

There'll be a first stage installation, which should be six times more capable than the supercomputer used now.

And then five years later there'll be a major upgrade to increase performance by a further three times.

What will the supercomputer actually do?

It'll run what the Met Office calls its "digital twin" of the Earth's atmosphere, a highly detailed "model" of everything from the winds to the temperatures to the pressures.

To create this simulated picture of our weather, the globe is divided into grid squares.

These have become smaller as the technology has advanced - and the smaller the better because that means more accuracy.

At the moment, the model of Earth is divided up into a grid of squares that are 10km across.

The UK gets more detailed treatment: its squares are 1,500m across.

London is studied with the aid of even smaller squares - 300m wide - mainly to improve the accuracy of forecasts for the airspace above the big airports.

And the ambition, when the new supercomputer is up and running, is to operate at an even sharper resolution, down to a scale of 100m.

Will it really make a difference?

The Met Office certainly believes it will. There's huge demand for better forecasting - from the military to the power companies to organisers of big outdoor events.

It could guide Environment Agency teams deploying mobile flood barriers or help the National Grid balancing fluctuations in wind and solar power.

And the prospect of rising global temperatures fuelling new and more dangerous extremes of weather makes accuracy all the more important.

There has been a huge improvement in recent years - every passing decade has seen forecasts reach a whole day further into the future.

A five-day forecast now is as accurate as a one-day forecast 40 years ago.

So will the new computing power continue that advance? Penny Endersby prefers not to be make any promises.

"I won't hang my hat on getting another day in the next decade," she says. "But it will make our forecasts more accurate, more timely and more localised."

And the government has calculated what that could mean in hard cash: that for every pound invested, there should be £19 in economic benefit.

And will it help with climate change?

That's the aim, with the digitally-simulated atmosphere also run far into the future to explore the effects of a hotter world.

The effects of the rise of 1C over the past 150 years are still not fully understood, let alone those of bigger increases to come.

It should mean researchers can add more detail to their projections, weaving in factors such as the way nitrogen reacts with the carbon in the air.

And as the UK moves towards its target of net zero emissions by 2050, there'll be a chance to explore different options for how the country uses the land.

For example, what will the effects be of planting new forests or protecting peat bogs or growing more biofuels?

Won't the new supercomputer itself add to carbon emissions?

Like any huge IT installation, it'll certainly need a massive supply of electricity.

That's why the Met Office is inviting the potential providers to come up with low-carbon options.

And that's led to a radical idea. The last 14 Met Office computers have all been housed in the UK - and the new one might not be.

Around half of the processing work - the research devoted to climate change - could be located in countries blessed with easy sources of clean energy.

Iceland with its geothermal sources and Norway with its hydropower are both possibilities.

The offer is only open to countries in the European Economic Area - locating the facility on another continent has been ruled out because of the time lag in using a distant connection.

Invitations to the IT industry to bid for the project are being drawn up and will go out near the end of the year.

And the start date for the new machine will be sometime in late 2022.

Explorers discover huge ‘lost’ cave with 3 floors & giant hall in Antarctica (PHOTOS)

Polar explorers have discovered a monumental “lost” ice cave with three floors, a giant hall, 200 meters of walkways, several lakes and a river hidden in Antarctica.

The mysterious cave was found on Galindez Island, where explorers from the Ukranian Antarctic Expedition (UAE) are based. There was a known entrance to the cave opposite the island’s shore station, however several years ago the opening was blocked when a glacier shifted into the ocean.

The team searched tirelessly to find another entrance into the cave. After several unsuccessful attempts, they found an opening at an old British base – only to discover that the cave is actually three times larger than the team previously thought.

READ MORE: 118yo painting discovered in mint condition in Antarctica (PHOTO)

On the bottom floor of the magnificent cavern the team found a frozen lake and a giant hall that is almost as high as a four-storey building (12 meters), eight meters wide and a whopping 30 meters long. Over the cave’s three floors and about 200 meters of walkways, the team also discovered an ice river and a bird’s feather in an ice block some 20 meters (65ft) below the surface.

‘Pluto is a planet’: NASA official risks sparking science civil war with controversial declaration

One brave NASA administrator is refusing to bow to the prevailing scientific consensus, and is risking potential ostracization or, worse still, online ridicule, for proudly declaring that “Pluto is a planet.”

Saturday, August 24, 2019 marked 13 years to the day since Pluto was demoted from having the status of a planet to being assigned that of a dwarf planet, by the International Astronomical Union (our solar system’s resident’s association of scientific fuddy-duddies). 

But now, in what history may record as either a brave call to arms, beseeching the scientific community to band together against the tyranny of the IAU or, more likely, an off-the-cuff, likely tongue-in-cheek remark, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine had declared his unwavering belief that Pluto is indeed a planet. “I’m sticking by that, it’s the way I learned it and I’m committed to it,” Bridenstine boldly declared.

@CReppWx My favorite soundbyte of the day that probably won't make it to TV. It came from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. As a Pluto Supporter, I really appreciated this. #9wx#PlutoLoversRejoice @JimBridenstine

Regardless of how his comments were intended, there are still members of the scientific community fighting the good fight to restore Pluto to full planetary status and renew its membership in the Solar System Planet Club.

Pluto was originally demoted as it had not cleared its planetary neighborhood (the Kuiper belt) of cosmic debris, angering the uptight Galactic Residents’ Association back on Earth.

Also on rt.com NASA celebrates anniversary of Pluto mission with stunning flyover movie (VIDEO)...

There was also a certain degree of NIMBY-ism behind the decision: astronomers had discovered multiple objects in our solar system that were indeed larger than Pluto (including Eris). Does this mean that these should all be declared planets? This could set up a slippery slope for chain migration by unscrupulous dwarf planets trying to force their way into the solar system’s exclusive planetary club, making a mockery of the IAU’s byzantine rules and regulations. 

Proponents of the restoration of Pluto’s planetary status point to its multilayered atmosphere, the presence of organic compounds on its surface, the fact that it has weather, avalanches, plutoquakes and possibly even liquid oceans, in addition to its own moons, as more than sufficient evidence of its rightful place among the stars.

Also on rt.com Pluto may boast massive life-supporting hidden ocean and water-spewing icy volcanoes...

Bridenstine’s comments sparked an outpouring of support for Pluto on Twitter, with many weighing in to offer their backing for reinstating Pluto’s planetary status. “It’s round, has weather, has several moons, orbits the Sun. It’s a god-damned planet,” one commenter wrote. “The first crime in space was kicking Pluto out of the planet club,” another added, riffing on a news story from last week. However, many others were just immensely fatigued by the entire row.

Interestingly, Bridenstine’s position is also supported by planetary scientist Alan Stern, leader of NASA’s New Horizons mission. 

“The New Horizons project, like a growing number of the public, and many hundreds if not thousands of professional research astronomers and planetary scientists, will not recognise the IAU’s planet definition resolution of Aug. 24, 2006,” Ster wrote previously. 

The ongoing controversy famously featured in an episode of the wildly popular Adult Swim animated series Rick and Morty, where one character is widely mocked and ridiculed for sharing his belief that Pluto is indeed a planet declaring that, “If it can be a planet, it can be a planet again!”

World's First Battery-Powered Cruise Ship To Sail For The Arctic

Oslo: The world's first cruise ship propelled partially by battery power is set to head out from northern Norway on its maiden voyage, cruise operator Hurtigruten said on Monday.

The hybrid expedition cruise ship, the Roald Amundsen, can take 500 passengers and is designed to sail in harsh climate waters.

Named after the Norwegian explorer who navigated the Northwest Passage in 1903-1906 and was first to reach the South Pole in 1911, the ship heads for the Arctic from Tromsoe this week and will sail the Northwest Passage to Alaska before heading south, reaching Antarctica in October.

While the engines run mainly on marine gasoil, the ship's battery pack enables it to run solely on batteries for around 45 to 60 minutes under ideal conditions, Hurtigruten Chief Executive Daniel Skjeldam told Reuters.

The company estimates that the battery pack will reduce fuel consumption and save about 20% in carbon dioxide emissions, compared to if the ship was operating on marine gasoil alone.

fl1mht58The ship heads for the Arctic this week and will sail the Northwest Passage to Alaska before heading south, reaching Antarctica in October.

"It's designed to take excessive energy from the engines and put into the battery when the ship doesn't need it, and put it back into the engine when the ship needs it -- it is a way of reducing emissions significantly without having charging stations available," Skjeldam said.

The company, which operates scenic cruise lines along the country's fjords and into the Arctic, was inspired by Norway's fleet of hybrid ferries and also its growing fleet of electric cars, he said.

Battery technology for propelling ships is in its infancy, even on shorter routes, as few ports provide charging stations.

"We expect batteries to be an important part of shipping in the years to come, but of course we don't expect our ships to be able to operate only on batteries, because the ship can sail up to 18-20 days in areas where there are no charging points," Skjeldam said.

Hurtigruten expects infrastructure will improve on its traditional routes along the Norwegian coast, while currently charging services are only provided in Bergen, Norway's second-largest city.

The future for batteries on larger ships also hinges on suppliers' capacity to develop lighter, more powerful systems.

"We expect a revolution on battery technology for ships, we expect batteries to be lighter, more effective, and we've set aside extra room for more batteries to be installed when battery packs become more effective," Skjeldam said.

He added that the second hybrid cruise ship the company has on order, to be delivered later this year, will have battery pack with twice the capacity of the Roald Amundsen.

 

'Hi-tech robot' at Russia forum turns out to be man in suit

A “hi-tech robot” shown on Russian state television has turned out to be a man in a suit.

Russia-24 praised the ersatz android during coverage of a youth forum dedicated to robotics, boasting that “Robot Boris has already learned to dance and he’s not that bad”.

But sharp-eyed bloggers were dubious. The Russian website TJournal listed questions about the robot’s performance: Where were Boris’s external sensors? Why did the robot make so many “unnecessary movements” while dancing?

And why did the robot look like a person would fit perfectly inside of it?

Later, photographs of the “robot” posted on social media showed the very visible neckline of the person in the suit.

Boris turned out to be an “Alyosha the Robot” costume made by a company called Show Robots.

An actor in the robot suit.Photo purporting to show an actor in the robot suit. Photograph: MBKh Media

The £3,000 costume, equipped with microphone and tablet display, creates the “near total illusion that before you stands a real robot”.

A photograph published by MBKh Media, the news agency founded by the Vladimir Putin opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky, appeared to show the actor in the robot suit ahead of the forum on Tuesday in Yaroslavl, a city about 150 miles north-east of Moscow.

The organisers of the Proyektoria technology forum, held each year for the “future intellectual leaders of Russia”, did not try to pass off the robot as real, the website reported.

But whether by mistake or design, the state television footage did just that. “It’s entirely possible one of these [students] could dedicate himself to robotics,” an anchor reported. “Especially as at the forum they have the opportunity to look at the most modern robots.”

Then, a very robotic voice rang out. “I know mathematics well but I also want to learn to draw,” Boris said, before dancing to the Little Big song Skibidi.

On Wednesday morning, the television report briefly disappeared from Russia-24’s YouTube channel but by early afternoon it was accessible again.

The state-run Channel One was forced to apologise last week for a fake report showing a young Ukrainian man complaining about progress since the country’s revolution five years ago. The man turned out to be Belarusian, and told RFE/RL he was “totally ashamed” for taking part in the report.

'Rogue Waves': Scientist Claims He's Solved the Bermuda Triangle Mystery

The Bermuda Triangle is infamous for the large number of ships and planes that have vanished while sailing or flying across it.

Simon Boxall, a researcher at the National Oceanography Center at the University of Southampton, has pointed to massive cyclones as one possible reason for the mysterious disappearance of ships in the vast area of the North Atlantic Ocean between Florida, Bermuda and Puerto Rico.

According to him, such cyclones emerge when two or three separate weather formations merger, creating a “perfect storm.”

“It can happen pretty much anywhere, but the sort of places we see them include places like the tip of South America, Cape Horn, and the tip of South Africa, the Cape of Good Hope, Dr. Boxhall said in an interview with Daily Star Online.

He added that a storm can develop in the Indian Ocean, another one in the South Atlantic and still another in the Southern Ocean and the convergence of the wave systems from those storms will create a monster storm.

“These waves – rogue waves – can occur anywhere. And what happens is the crest of the two sets of waves adds up and you get a super wave. Suddenly out of the blue, you get a wave that is 30 meters (100 ft) high,” he noted.

He added that these waves suddenly appear and disappear but only during one such storm, which explains why the chance of a ship finding itself “in the wrong place at the right time” is pretty slim.

Hitting a cargo ship, such a wave can break it in two and sink it very quickly.

“If a cargo ship is unlucky enough to be hit by one of these super waves then it has probably only got a couple of minutes before it sinks. It will happen so quickly there won’t be time to send out a mayday,” the scientist said.

More than 50 ships and 20 planes are said to have mysteriously disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle, also known as the “Devil’s Triangle.”

Some ships were discovered completely abandoned for no apparent reason; others transmitted no distress signals and were never seen or heard from again.

READ MORE: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow: Mystery New Island Found in the Bermuda Triangle

Aircraft have been reported and then vanished, and rescue missions are said to have likewise vanished when flying in the area.

As CO2 levels climb, millions at risk of nutritional deficiencies

Rising levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) from human activity are making staple crops such as rice and wheat less nutritious and could result in 175 million people becoming zinc deficient and 122 million people becoming protein deficient by 2050, according to new research led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The study also found that more than 1 billion women and children could lose a large amount of their dietary iron intake, putting them at increased risk of anemia and other diseases.

"Our research makes it clear that decisions we are making every day -- how we heat our homes, what we eat, how we move around, what we choose to purchase -- are making our food less nutritious and imperiling the health of other populations and future generations," said Sam Myers, lead author of the study and principal research scientist at Harvard Chan School.

The study will be published online August 27, 2018 in Nature Climate Change.

Presently, more than 2 billion people worldwide are estimated to be deficient in one or more nutrients. In general, humans tend to get a majority of key nutrients from plants: 63% of dietary protein comes from vegetal sources, as well as 81% of iron and 68% of zinc. It has been shown that higher atmospheric levels of CO2 result in less nutritious crop yields, with concentrations of protein, iron, and zinc being 3%-17% lower when crops are grown in environments where CO2concentrations are 550 parts per million (ppm) compared with crops grown under current atmospheric conditions, in which CO2 levels are just above 400 ppm.

For this new study, researchers sought to develop the most robust and accurate analysis of the global health burden of CO2-related nutrient shifts in crops in 151 countries. To do so, they created a unified set of assumptions across all nutrients and used more detailed age- and sex-specific food supply datasets to improve estimates of the impacts across 225 different foods. The study built on previous analyses by the researchers on CO2-related nutritional deficiencies, which looked at fewer foods and fewer countries.

The study showed that by the middle of this century, when atmospheric CO2 concentrations are expected to reach around 550 ppm, 1.9% of the global population -- or roughly 175 million people, based on 2050 population estimates -- could become deficient in zinc and that 1.3% of the global population, or 122 million people, could become protein deficient. Additionally, 1.4 billion women of childbearing age and children under 5 who are currently at high risk of iron deficiency could have their dietary iron intakes reduced by 4% or more.

The researchers also emphasized that billions of people currently living with nutritional deficiencies would likely see their conditions worsen as a result of less nutritious crops.

According to the study, India would bear the greatest burden, with an estimated 50 million people becoming zinc deficient, 38 million becoming protein deficient, and 502 million women and children becoming vulnerable to diseases associated with iron deficiency. Other countries in South Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East would also be significantly impacted.

"One thing this research illustrates is a core principle of the emerging field of planetary health," said Myers, who directs the Planetary Health Alliance, co-housed at Harvard Chan School and Harvard University Center for the Environment. "We cannot disrupt most of the biophysical conditions to which we have adapted over millions of years without unanticipated impacts on our own health and wellbeing."

Cuba's Biopharmaceutical Industry Develops over 400 Projects

Havana, Jul 18 (Prensa Latina) Several research projects are developed by the Cuban biopharmaceutical industry, including those aimed at preventing and treating neurodegenerative diseases, cardiovascular diseases and cancer, according to officials from the sector.

Characterized by its closed cycle line, from invention and development to production and marketing, the entity works on 422 projects, 393 of them are product-oriented and 29 technological, all under the aegis of the Group of Biotechnological and Pharmaceutical Industries of Cuba (BioCubafarma).

In a meeting with the press, its director Eduardo Martinez explained that one of the entity´s megaprojects is the program of therapeutic molecules for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, ataxia and multiple sclerosis.

NeuroEpo is the name of this product developed by the Molecular Immunology Center, one of the 34 companies affiliated to BioCubafarma.

Another of its leading entities, the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, develops a clinical trial with a cardioprotector that reduces the size of the infarcted area by 78.9 percent.

After five years of existence, BioCubafarma has among its missions the production of high technology medicines, equipment and services.

Considered an industry with broad impact for the economy, referring to the export, the official explained that the products reach 34 nations from all latitudes, from the implementation of a business model that includes technology transfer agreements with countries like Brazil, South Africa, Iran China and Viet Nam.

  • Published in Cuba
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