The San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) and UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography have been awarded a NASA grant to build the cyber-infrastructure that will house NASA satellite data that tracks changes in the Earth’s ice sheets.
The cyberinfrastucture platform will be used for discovery, access and visualization of data from NASA’s previous ICESat mission and forthcoming ICESat-2 mission, which is scheduled to launch in 2018. The missions not only collects data on the changes in Earth’s ice sheets, sea-ice thickness, sea-level height, but they also measure the changes in the structure of forest and brushland canopies and the distribution of clouds and aerosols, according to a recent SDSC press release.
The project, called OpenAltimetry, will build upon technology that SDSC had built for its National Science Foundation-funded OpenTopography facility, which provides researchers with web-based access to high-resolution topographic data and processing tools, the release said.
The new cyberinfrastructure will allow researchers unfamiliar with ICESat and ICESat-2 to easily navigate the data and analyze changes over time for any area of interest and for different regions on Earth, the release said. Potential use cases include identifying the subglacial lakes in the Antarctic and documenting deforestation.
“The unique data generated by ICESat and the upcoming ICESat-2 mission require a new paradigm for data access, both to serve the needs of expert users as well as to increase the accessibility and utility of this data for new users,” said Adrian Borsa, a UC San Diego assistant professor at Scripps’ Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics and the principal investigator for the OpenAltimetry project.
“We envision a data access system that will broaden the use of the ICESat dataset well beyond its core cryosphere community, and will be ready to serve the upcoming ICESat-2 mission when it begins to return data in 2018,” Borsa said in a statement. “Ultimately, we hope that OpenAltimetry will be the platform of choice for hosting similar datasets from other altimetry missions.”
The OpenAltimetry project will address the main objective of the NASA ACCESS (Advancing Collaborative Connections for Earth System Science) program, which is to improve the discovery, accessibility and usability of NASA’s Earth science data for new and existing users, the release said.