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NWS Announces Big Computer Upgrade 161

Posted by timothy
from the in-these-troubled-economic-times dept.
riverat1 writes "After being embarrassed when the Europeans did a better job forecasting Sandy than the National Weather Service Congress allocated $25 million ($23.7 after sequestration) in the Sandy relief bill for upgrades to forecasting and supercomputer resources. The NWS announced that their main forecasting computer will be upgraded from the current 213 TeraFlops to 2,600 TFlops by fiscal year 2015, over a twelve-fold increase. The upgrade is expected to increase the horizontal grid scale by a factor of 3 allowing more precise forecasting of local features of weather. The some of the allocated funds will also be used to hire some contract scientists to improve the forecast model physics and enhance the collection and assimilation of data."
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NWS Announces Big Computer Upgrade

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  • Precise garbage (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 20, 2013 @08:19AM (#43772495)

    Well unless we're in a butterfly wing effect situation, you'll generate 3 times the amount of garbage.

    I think this is more a subsidy to the troubled supercomputing market disguised as a technical improvement.

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Monday May 20, 2013 @08:55AM (#43772641)
    It appears that the computers that Europe was using for the "better forecast" were not as powerful [ecmwf.int] as the [metoffice.gov.uk] old system being replaced. Upgrading because Europe's forecast better would be like taking a slow route to a holiday destination then buying a Porsche because your neighbours got there sooner when all you need is a new roadmap.
  • by Cenan (1892902) on Monday May 20, 2013 @09:21AM (#43772809)

    Though most of the world uses the Celsius scale, the Fahrenheit scale may be better suited to meteorology. For one thing, it is more precise and less coarse simply because each degree represents a smaller interval.

    Bullshit. There is no precision to be had from choosing a unit, the precision comes from not being an idiot and doing all your calculations in straight integers.

    More importantly, the range in temperature from 0 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit almost perfectly demarcates the extremes found in the climates of the United States and Europe; it seldom gets any hotter or colder. The convenience of a perfect 100 degree interval encompassing the temperatures in which most of us live seems a pity to lose. (The same range on the Celsius scale is a clumsier -18 to +38 degrees.)

    More bullshit. The argument is based on how you feel towards a given range, but nobody is going to do those calculations by hand. You could just as easily have a range of 0-1 and have the exact same precision as before, just more numbers after the decimal point.

    And predicting the weather is not about predicting the normal as much as predicting the extremes, which would lie outside your "perfect range".

  • Re:so.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Teun (17872) on Monday May 20, 2013 @09:49AM (#43772969) Homepage
    Because, as others already explained, the NWS is already using the EU generated data and vice versa.

    Much more important is for something this important you'd like to have more than one model, if only to check against.

  • by operagost (62405) on Monday May 20, 2013 @10:27AM (#43773183) Homepage Journal
    This is similar to how politicians and teachers' unions insist that the way to produce better results in our public schools is to throw more money at them. Meanwhile, the performance of European schools (and even American private schools) do better with less.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 20, 2013 @11:11AM (#43773575)

    The assertion that private schools are better is a dangerously miguided one for a few reasons:

    1) private schools can and do choose the students they want. So they either throw out or do not enroll the students that take the most time and effort. This includes for things like discipline problems, learning disabilities, and phisical disabilities. So they avoid all of the expensive students. And those students are enormously expensive to take care of.

    2) We have let the "special needs" system start to gobble up enormous resouces, primariyly in legal and administrative (not teaching) costs. My mother was a special ed. teacher and I was constantly amazed at all of the large mettings she described covering the IEP (Individual Education Plans) where most of the people at the table were not teachers, and there were often multiple lawers at each meeting for the school district. At a couple of hundred dollers per hour each, those are going to add up. If we were to start making reasonable limitations on what parents could sue the school districts for that would cut an enormous chunk out of the school budgets.

    3) Private schools are not required to take the same tests as public schools. So it is hard to have any real data about them doing better. Every time I have heard someone assert than and have been in the position to ask, it winds up to be an unbased assertion.

    4) In addition to the private school selecting their students, the students also tend to be self-selecting for those with both well-off parents as well as involved parents. Leaving asside arguments about inherited raw ability, those parents have the skills needed for success as well as the motivation. They are likely to teach those to their children regardless of where those children go to school. So they are pooling students who are likely to perform highly, as well as parents who are highly involved with the education system away from public schools.

    5) Many private schools are religious ones. So a portion of their teachers and administrative staff have already given vows of poverty. Funny how that makes it easier to have a smaller budget.

    Public schools are the only thing this country currently has that promotes equality of opportunity, and every generation there is a big push to try and kill them and replace them with ways that the rich can secure their children's future at the expense of the poor children's.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 20, 2013 @12:01PM (#43773991)

    So much ignorance, I'm not sure where to start. First, I work in a public school. I've worked in private schools, my mother runs a (non-religious) private school. My wife has taught in other private and public schools. My daughter has an IEP.

    Teacher's unions generally do not want more money thrown at the schools, depending on the state. There will be significant differences in the political games in public education depending on the state. In most "at-will employment" states, the teacher's union is mostly there for show. The district mostly controls the teacher's union. In states like this, the district administration pushes for more money to be thrown at "schools." This is because they control how the money is actually spent, and as a result, most of the money doesn't get to the school level.

    There is a huge misdirection that most of the general public has fallen for in public education. The perception among the general public is that the "schools" are at fault. In reality, the district administration controls and dictates everything. A school principal has much less authority and autonomy than most people realize. This works out great for the district administration, because the school staff regularly become the scapegoat for failed district policies. In many states, counties, districts, cities, a school can do very little other than what district administration tells them to do. In effect, a school has all the accountability with none of the authority. Meanwhile, the district administration continues to make decisions in a vacuum while collecting paychecks that would make a seasoned IT Director blush.

    I've been in countless IEP meetings, both as a parent and as a school administrator. Most IEP meetings are educators and parents. 4-5 school staff, 1-2 parents. The school staff are usually the various specialists (speech, OT, learning specialist, etc) and general ed teacher. I will usually be involved if there's some behavior concerns related to the IEP. I have never had a lawyer in an IEP meeting, other than a child advocate when there's social services involvement with a student. If a district needs lawyers at every IEP meeting, they're doing something very wrong. That would suggest the district is the problem, not the system itself.

    One last note, socio-economic status has a larger impact on student success than most people want to admit. Districts don't want to talk about that because then they might lose the federal programs thanks to No Child Left Behind.

    tl;dr It's not the individual public schools that are a problem, it's district administrations and school boards that have created huge bureaucratic structures and keep huge portions of money at the district level. This is really why private and charter schools generally do better with less money. They don't have the huge bureaucracy sucking up the money.

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