Cloud computing aids climate change research
Sunday, 31 October 2010

Monitoring climate change requires the collection and analysis of vasts amounts of data. Microsoft Research has come up with a cloud-based technology that enables scientists to conduct research into the impact of climate change at a scale and pace not previously possible.

 

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MODISAzure is a technology that uses Windows Azure to download, process and deliver data.

According to Catherine van Ingen, an architect at Microsoft Research:

"The computation is not quite supercomputer scale, but it's near. It used to take about a month and a half of downloading the data and making sure you got it all and bookkeeping, and this technology breaks down the resource barrier and the tedium barrier. We're just at the forefront of cloud computing — this will enable a new generation of science".

One project currently using the technology is mapping what the research team leader, biometereology professor Dennis Baldocchi of the University of California, Berkeley calls "the breathing of the biosphere".

 

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ModisAzure lets Baldocchi and his colleagues combine and visualize large amounts of climate data from NASA satellites that provide images of vegetation and from more than 500 FLUXNET towers - ground-based sensors positioned in several countries around the world that measure changes in carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, ozone and so on. Putting all this data together can build up a more complete picture of climate change than has been previously available and opens up avenues for new research. 

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For more information about how MODIS Azure works and its potential future applications, see MODISAzure: Accelerating the Pace of Environmental Research

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