British Climate Change Supercomputer Is Also a Super Polluter

supercomputerScientists already know that climate change has an impact on the environment, but what about the supercomputers that are supposed to predict climate change? It turns out the U.K.'s most powerful supercomputer, which also happens to be a climate change prediction machine, produces over 12,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year. That makes the building that houses it (the Met Office) among the worst polluters in the country.

The $48 million supercomputer is the size of two soccer fields, processes 125 trillion calculations based on satellite information each second, and sucks up 1.2 megawatts of energy, or enough to power over 1,000 homes. So despite being a green calculation machine, the computer is actually one of the least green machines in existence. Oh, the irony.

Still, scientists contest that the machine's predictions of disastrous weather events are worth its CO2-emitting tendencies since forecasting of severe weather warnings saves the aviation industry approximately 20 million tons of CO2 each year. But while there are no plans to dismantle the supercomputer, scientists are increasingly coming to rely on distributed computing efforts—applications that use excess processing power from volunteers' computers—for climate change prediction. Since these efforts use power from idling computers, minimal excess CO2 is released .

[Via UK Times Online]

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3 Comments

  • Kit Eaton

    @Gabriel. I think computer manufacturers do do "extensive research." This story is a conflict of two facts: 1--Calculating/simulating weather systems is computationally very tricky, and requires ridiculous amounts of computer power. 2--Ridiculous amounts of computer power eat up ridiculous amounts of energy (whether in a supercomputer or a distributed computing net.) You could, of course, build computers that require less energy, but that's secondary to building ones that are powerful. And without these computers, we'd never be able to get a handle on all the complex issues surrounding the environment

  • Gabriel Revilla

    Technology is the newest trend of our generation. As we are embracing the computer generation, we tend to forget the impact of these high tech gadgets in our environment. Computer manufacturers must do an extensive research for the innovation of computers. They need to make these computers more environmental friendly than the ones we are using now.

    Gabriel