National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

The National Weather Service uses supercomputers around the clock to accurately produce forecasts, watches, warnings and a whole host of data for the public. These computers run sophisticated numerical models (computer programs) of the atmosphere, ocean, and even in space, which is used by NWS forecasters, the private sector, universities and the public to help create accurate forecasts, support research and inform the public.

NWS super computers hold numerical modeling data for weather forecasting models.

These computers make use of virtually all observational data that the NWS collects.  This data comes from satellites, weather balloons, buoys, radar, and more. From this data, the supercomputers are able to help predict every kind of weather hazard imaginable, including hurricanes, tornadoes, extreme heat, and even space weather.

In addition to helping the NWS forecast the weather, the computers’ data is also made available worldwide, which can help other countries predict their weather as well.

The NWS has been using supercomputers for decades. The latest major update to the computers’ was in 2016. Currently, the combined processing power of NWS super computers is 5.78 petaflops, which is more than 10,000 times faster than the average desktop computer.  The supercomputers are housed in two primary centers, in Reston, Virginia, and Orlando, Florida.  Each location features two rows of computers working in tandem, each 40 feet long.

The NWS super computers are one of the most powerful weather-predicting systems in the world.  

Surface dew point temperature map from the RAP model

For more information about NWS supercomputers, please visit the NCEP Central Operations website.