The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has introduced a significant upgrade to the software that guides its weather prediction capability for the first time in four decades. The Global Forecast System (GFS) software requires huge amounts of computing power to model the physics of global weather. The system uses data from satellites and sensors to predict conditions in coming hours and days. The upgraded system will help improve predictions of severe weather, including winter storms, hurricanes, and other tropical storms. The GFS upgrade has been tested for a year, running models based on data from past warm and cold seasons and comparing the results with what actually happened. Said Brian Gross, director of NOAA’s Environmental Modeling Center, “We are confident the upgrade will provide an overall improvement,” and more accurate forecasts of temperature, rainfall, and snowfall.
More info here: The New York Times, Henry Fountain
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has developed an online tool that compiles water-level data and storm forecasts to help coastal residents prepare for floods. The Coastal Inundation Dashboard aims to give coastal residents the best chance to survive storm surge and rising water levels. The dashboard displays each water-level station as a turquoise pin on a map of the U.S. Areas with active flood risks are highlighted with pulsing red lines, and users can zoom in on specific locations. Each pinpoint displays the station number, observed water levels, the latest readings for wind speed and barometric pressure, and information on recent and upcoming high tides. The dashboard can also be used for recreation, as fishermen, boaters, and surfers can access the data to determine local tides.
More info here: NextGov.com, Kate Elizabeth Queram
The European High-Performance Computing Joint Undertaking (EuroHPC) has chosen eight European Union (EU)-based sites to host supercomputers to support scientific, industrial, and corporate application development projects. The sites will be in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Slovenia, and Spain. The supercomputers will be used to help develop apps for personalized medicine, drug and material design, bioengineering, weather forecasting, and climate change. Nineteen of the 28 EU countries participating in the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking will be members of the consortia running the sites, which will have a total budget of €840 million (about $950 million).
More info here: HPCwire
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have invented a system to enable autonomous vehicles to navigate complex environments by checking a basic global positioning system-like map and employing video feeds from cameras. The autonomous control system first “learns” humans’ steering patterns on suburban streets via the map/video combination. In training, a convolutional neural network correlates steering wheel spins to road curvatures, as seen through cameras and the inputted map. Once trained, the system can pilot a car along a preplanned route in a new area by emulating a human driver. The system also continuously identifies any mismatches between the map and road features to sense whether its position, sensors, or mapping are wrong, and makes appropriate course corrections. Said MIT’s Alexander Amini, “With our system, you don’t need to train on every road beforehand. You can download a new map for the car to navigate through roads it has never seen before.”
More info here: MIT News, Rob Matheson
Researchers at the China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Pandas have developed an app that allows conservationists to identify individual pandas using facial recognition technology. The researchers built a database with over 120,000 images and 10,000 video clips of giant pandas, allowing them to correctly identify individual animals. The app and database will help scientists gather more precise and well-rounded information on the population, distribution, ages, gender ratio, and birth and death rates of wild pandas, said researcher Chen Peng. “It will definitely help us improve efficiency and effectiveness in conservation and management of the animals.”
More info here: The Washington Post, Anna Fifield
In 2021, Oak Ridge National Laboratory will become home to Frontier, a $600-million exascale machine featuring Cray and AMD technology that could become the world’s fastest supercomputer. Frontier should be able to reach 1.5 exaflops, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, which is about 10 times faster than the current system atop the Top500 supercomputer ranking—the IBM-built Summit supercomputer, also housed at Oak Ridge. However, there is no guarantee that the U.S. will win the race to exascale supercomputers, because China, Japan, and France each could have exascale machines in place in 2020. Currently, China is home to 227 of the supercomputers on the Top500 ranking, compared to 109 for the U.S.
More info here: CNet, Stephen Shankland
Activists and business leaders are focusing more on technological solutions that could prevent or limit the devastation caused by mass shootings, as political solutions have thus far been nonexistent. Private companies leading the push for safety solutions include Toronto-based Patriot One Technology, which has commercialized cognitive microwave technology to detect concealed weapons from McMaster University in Canada. The system uses low-power impulse radar systems for the detection of on-body concealed weapons, identifying concealed irregular object mass based on a database of known weapon profiles. Meanwhile Austin, TX-based Athena Security utilizes artificial intelligence and computer vision through existing surveillance cameras to recognize dangerous objects and suspicious motions, including an individual holding or pulling out a gun or knife.
More info here: Jerusalem Post, Eytan Halon