Israel Meteorological Service to get ‘supercomputer’ to model climate change effects

Multiple ministries, Water Authority to fund NIS 20 million project for high resolution modeling; will enable Israel and region to better prepare for extreme weather events

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

The sun over forests near Jerusalem on September 2, 2021. (Nati Shohat/ Flash90)
The sun over forests near Jerusalem on September 2, 2021. (Nati Shohat/ Flash90)

The government on Sunday approved spending NIS 20 million ($5.6 million) over the next five years on a supercomputer capable of creating sophisticated models and forecasts for the effects of climate change.

The data will be available to the entire region, according to a joint statement from several ministries and the Water Authority, all of which will be sharing the cost.

The Middle East and North Africa are known as climate hotspots because temperatures are rising faster than the global average.

Accurate forecasting is critical to mitigating the effects of extreme weather events such as heatwaves by enabling policymakers to plan their response.

The Israel Meteorological Service has long suffered from inadequate computer facilities.

The new equipment — to form the centerpiece of a National Center for Climate Calculation — will be operated by the IMS, within the Transportation Ministry.

A car swept away during flooding in the Kana Stream, January 16, 2022 (Samaria Regional Council)

It will be supervised by a steering committee comprising the chief scientists of the relevant ministries and the climate committee chairperson of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. That latter role is currently filled by Prof. Dan Yakir of the Weizmann Institute of Science.

“Government ministries are mapping climate risks and building sectoral preparedness plans, under the direction of the National Preparedness Administration in the Ministry of Environmental Protection,” said the statement. “But they are required to base their actions and decisions, both on prevention and adaptation, on in-depth research and scientific insights.”

What was needed, the statement continued, was “a ‘supercomputer’ with thousands of processors and storage resources on a huge scale.”

Israel — roughly the size of New Jersey in the United States, or Wales in the United Kingdom, combines a wide variety of topographies, altitudes, and local climates.

This, said the statement, underlined the need for high-resolution simulations to accurately describe local meteorological processes and climate change from the coastlines and mountain ranges, to the Jordan Valley and the deserts of the Arava in the south.

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