Supercomputing center closure one of many US weather agency coronavirus shutdowns

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A major US supercomputer used in weather forecasting has closed its doors to the public amid fears over the spread of the coronavirus. The US National Center for Atmospheric Research’s (NCAR) Supercomputing Center in Wyoming is closed to the public until further notice.

The shutdown is part of a broad sweep of closures that have affected the weather forecasting industry as meteorologists do their best to stem the spread of the virus. Elsewhere in the USA, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) announced that it was closing its Colorado headquarters effective March 17 with staff asked to work from home.

Meanwhile, NASA asked its 17,000 employees to voluntarily work from home one day last week as a rehearsal to possible widespread measures. This came after the agency already instructed 1,200 employees at the Ames Research Center in California to work from home until further notice after a worker there tested positive for the illness.

Other areas of the weather forecasting sector that are less able to shift to a work-from-home model are in a quandary over how to adapt to the impact of the virus.

Forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Weather Service are continuing to work at its 122 offices across the USA. According to the Washington Post, NOAA has conducted a voluntary telework drill to test its ability to move workers out of offices in large numbers.

It also has reduced staff at its region office in Seattle, Washington – home to the USA’s most deadly outbreak of the coronavirus. But many operational roles such as launching weather balloons or issuing weather warnings cannot be done remotely, the paper reported.

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