NOAA launches $27.6 million climate 'supercomputer' center

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has launched a new $27.6 million “supercomputer center” in West Virginia aimed at developing and improving the accuracy of global and regional climate and weather predictions.

“The additional computing power at the new center allows NOAA to strengthen its ability to provide the right information at the right time for people to make decisions at all levels, NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco said. “This capacity is part of a suite of climate services NOAA is developing that will help individuals, communities and businesses to make informed decisions in a changing climate.” 

Lubchenco joined Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) Wednesday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the center, which is located in Fairmont, W.Va.

“This state-of-the-art supercomputer will not only give NOAA a powerful new tool in climate and weather modeling and service delivery, it will also cement north central West Virginia's reputation as a growing high-tech center,” Mollohan said.

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin — who has locked horns with the Obama administration over cap-and-trade and its policies regulating the coal-mining industry — praised the move as well.

“Any time we are able to enhance our resources and technologies that help our professionals better predict the weather, it is a direct benefit to our citizens,” Manchin said.

NOAA will occupy about 54,000 square feet in the I-79 Technology Park Research Center in Fairmont until 2031. Renovation will start by January next year, and the supercomputer center is expected to be fully operational by the fall.

NOAA — as well as other Obama administration agencies — has been increasingly focusing on issues related to climate change.

NOAA in February announced plans to create an official “Climate Service” that would draw together its research, modeling and observation work.

Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) was among those who praised that effort.