IBM supercomputer to fight Florida storms

The IBM RS/6000 may look like a bunch of fridges in a row, but it could soon be saving the lives of Florida citizens

Florida State University has introduced the world's biggest university owned supercomputer Monday. Costing $8m, it will be used to fight bad weather, including storms and hurricanes.

The computer will help to predict the development of storms and hurricanes, which will in turn help plan precisely the evacuation of people from endangered coastal areas.

The Super Ensemble forecast -- the computer model used by the university to forecast the weather -- is based on a large number of past predictions. It analyses each of these, including those that have turned out to be wrong, and makes its own prediction.

But the presence of the new supercomputer will allow the data to be processed much faster, meaning the department can send predictions to hurricane experts as soon as possible. This ensures maximum time for coastal evacuation if necessary.

The machine can perform two and a half trillion calculations per second, meaning it is eight thousand times more powerful than an average PC, and it has a vast storage capacity.

As well as its weather functions, it can be used to monitor forest fires, compare DNA sequences, make economic forecasts and manage air traffic.

The computer is the offspring of "Deep Blue" -- the machine which beat chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997.

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