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Climate-change supercomputer causes pollution storm

Darren Staples/Reuters

(Read caption) Barbecue summer? This beachgoer in Skegness, eastern England, doesn't think so. Turns out, the supercomputer that helped produce a less-than-stellar summer forecast for Britain is a major polluter.

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There were a few red faces in Britain this week – and not from sunburn – as it was revealed that a $48.9 million supercomputer hailed for its potential contribution to climate change research is one of the nation's top emitters of carbon dioxide.

As The Daily Mail reports, the 1-petaflop machine (that's 1,000,000,000,000,000 calculations per second) installed last year at the Met Office, the nation's chief weather forecasting body, uses 1.2 megawatts of energy to run – enough to power 1,000 homes. That's good enough to land the facility on a list of worst-polluting public buildings in Britain, joined by hospitals and "large leisure centers."

Many, including Met Office spokesman Barry Gromett, were quick to argue that the work done by the supercomputer validates its hearty appetite. Grommet claims that the machine's "severe weather warnings could help to save lives and its predictions for the airline industry helped to save 20 million tonnes of carbon emissions each year," the Times Online reports.

"Life is full of ironies and I think this is one of those situations," Friends of the Earth spokesman Maurice Spurway told the Mail.


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