NASA is continuing on its quest to study climate change and all things Earth-related with the NASA Earth Exchange (NEX), a supercomputing application that allows researchers to share data sets and analysis through a Web-based portal. NASA is providing visualizations, Earth system data sets, social networking tools and more through NEX, which runs on a 609 teraflop supercomputer dubbed “Pleiadies.”
Using on-line collaboration technologies, NEX will bring together geographically dispersed multi-disciplinary groups of scientists focused on global change research. Scientists will be able to build custom project environments containing the datasets and software components needed to solve complex Earth science problems. These project environments, built using virtualization technology, will be highly portable and reusable and will automatically capture the entire analysis process, including the data and processing steps required to replicate the results in an open and transparent way. The science teams would have access to not only the data, but also each processing step used to create the global mosaics.
Scientists could, for example, use NASA’s high-resolution pictures of the Earth’s vegetation from Landsat data over the past 30 years (pictured) to track urban growth, agricultural irrigation, and deforestation. This data could reap information about deforestation, urbanization, and biodiversity that researchers might not be able to discover without NASA’s help.
The space agency may be outsourcing its research to scientists around the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s short on cash. The Obama administration recently proposed a budget that would give NASA $2.4 billion for climate change research, including satellites that keep track of ice cap size, CO2 growth in the atmosphere, and ocean and atmospheric temperatures–all data that could end up on the NEX.