Russia readies supercomputer to improve World Cup weather forecasts

Soccer Football - 2018 FIFA World Cup Draw - State Kremlin Palace, Moscow, Russia - December 1, 2017 General view of the FIFA World Cup trophy during the draw REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia is setting up a supercomputer meant to improve weather forecasts ahead of this year’s soccer World Cup finals, the authorities said on Tuesday.

With the World Bank’s support, the world’s largest country has been working to improve its weather forecasting capabilities and use standards closer to those of leading forecasting centers.

The need for timely and accurate weather information will be essential for the month-long tournament taking place across 11 cities, from Kaliningrad in the west to Ekaterinburg, 2,500 km (1,553 miles) away in the east, and Sochi on the Black Sea.

Roman Vilfand, the head of state weather forecaster Hydrometcentre, told reporters that the country’s new supercomputer was expected to become operational in March. The tournament takes place from June 14 to July 15.

“Of course, we are preparing for this event (the World Cup),” he said. “We are currently discussing the regulations for the data to be supplied to the organizing committee.”

Vilfand, who did not disclose the cost of the World Bank-funded supercomputer, added discussions were taking place about when to release match-day forecasts and how much detail they should contain.

“I hope we will launch the first (weather forecasting) models with high resolution and then be able to describe weather in great detail,” he said.

Vilfand stressed that additional forecasts will be needed for the 32 teams’ training bases and for flight and road conditions between host cities.

Russian authorities expect three million to five million fans to travel in Russia during the World Cup.

Reporting by Polina Devitt; editing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and William Maclean