ST. LOUIS — Weather and climate forecasting got a big boost this week. The National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration launched two new supercomputers Tuesday. 

Forecasters at the National Weather Service Office in St. Louis are excited for the upgrades to come.

These new computers, installed in Virginia and Arizona, will improve weather and climate forecasts. Three times faster than NOAA’s former system. They operate at a speed of 12.1 petaflops. That means they perform more than 12 quadrillion operations per second.

The National Weather Service uses supercomputers to ingest weather data and produce forecasts, watches, and warnings across the country around the clock. 

These computers run sophisticated numerical models of the atmosphere, ocean, and even space. It is used by meteorologists as a starting point for accurate calculations.

“The computing power that we’ll have will allow us to run better models for all different sorts of weather,” said Brad Charboneau, NWS St. Louis Meteorologist. “Specifically, there is a new hurricane model that will run on this supercomputing system so, hopefully, we can improve the hurricane track and intensity forecasting. But not just hurricanes, all different kinds of weather.”

In this case, big can mean small. Big-time computing power means higher-resolution models can run to better capture small-scale features, like severe thunderstorms. So bottom line, this means better public safety.