NewsJune 12, 2015

NASA’s New Climate Projections, Now On the Cloud

Brian Kahn

By Brian Kahn

Follow @blkahn

NASA has put a new item up on Amazon. But there’s no price tag and you won’t necessarily find it by using the marketplace’s search bar or browsing the electronics section.

Instead, you’ll have to look at Amazon’s cloud, where NASA scientists have shared 11 terabytes of high resolution climate projections. A snapshot of July in 2100 in the map below shows how detailed the projections are. The new dataset is available to anyone with an internet connection, but comes courtesy of supercomputers only available to NASA scientists and a lucky handful of grantees.

Global high temperatures in July 2100 under high greenhouse emissions.
Click image to enlarge. Credit: NASA


“This opens up a door for many developing countries who may not have the computing resources as well as some application developers,” Tsengdar Lee, NASA’s supercomputing manager, said, noting that water managers, ministries of agriculture and other organizations could benefit.

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NASA’s Ames Research Center is home to Pleiades, the world’s 11th-fastest supercomputer. That level of computing power is only available to a select group of researchers, but the need for better data and projections is highest in precisely the countries that don’t have access. The impacts of climate change are expected to be disproportionately felt by the world’s poorest.

Lee said NASA scientists used a portion of Pleiades’ computing power over the course of a few months to create the new projections. They include high and low temperature as well as precipitation projections on a daily timescale through 2100 under both high and low greenhouse gas emissions trends (and for what it’s worth, we’re currently on the high road).

A comparison between June 21, 2014 and June 21, 2099.
Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

The new data is much higher resolution than most global climate projections currently available. While you can’t get a view of climate change in your neighborhood, seeing the impacts on your city isn’t totally out of the question.

Lee said they put the projections on Amazon’s web services because it offered easy public access and is already used by a large number of scientists and developers. The projections join 85,000 Landsat images and regularly updated MODIS satellite imagery as part of a growing suite of earth observations and climate projections available on Amazon through NASA’s NEX program.

The latest effort comes at a time when the White House, the United Nations and other organizations are pushing to make more climate data available for problem solving. And there’s obviously a need for that data in developing countries that have fewer records and resources available.

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