Debian Linux cluster beats supercomputer in tsunami warnings

Philippine weather service finds forecasting cheaper with Linux

The cluster works as part of the Philippine Interactive Communications Weather Information Network (PICWIN) which provides weather forecasting and an automatic warning system.

PICWIN was designed by the Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI), part of the Philippine government's Department of Science and Technology.

All of the equipment used for PICWIN's data gathering comes off-the-shelf, including laptops and mobile phones to transmit weather data such as temperature, humidity, rainfall, cloud formation and atmospheric pressure from field stations via SMS into PAGASA's central database.

"When all data is collected, both locally and internationally through the Global Telecommunications System (GTS), the cluster computer ingests all of this data and computes forecasts using models of the atmosphere.

"These are then analysed by weather forecasters and converted into meaningful information. Outputs are graphically summarized in our Web site in real-time," Pineda explains

The operational cluster is designed to calculate 3-day weather forecasts twice daily, and uses a variety of free and open source meteorological software.

"All that we are running is open source, like the German High Resolution Model (HRM), MM5, ETA. What was even surprising to us is that Intel FORTRAN is also free of charge, including all the math libraries and MPIC system," he said.

"We are quite happy with the results so far, considering we haven't applied assimilation of our radar and satellite products. We believe that as soon as these things are done, we can become even more confident in our long-term forecasts," Pineda said.

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