New Partnership to Increase EarthCube’s Benefits to the Research Community

By David Hosansky
Media Relations Manager
National Center for Atmospheric Research
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
Boulder, Colorado

The national EarthCube initiative is designed to help researchers across the geosciences work together to address the challenges of understanding and predicting the complexity of the Earth system.

EarthCube1

Image Credit: EarthCube.org

EarthCube, a national initiative to advance understanding of our planet, is now being supported by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) in Boulder, Colorado.

UCAR will administer the day-to-day operations of EarthCube under a three-year, $2.8 million agreement with the National Science Foundation (NSF).

“We’re excited that UCAR will be supporting this vital initiative,” said Eva Zanzerkia, program director in NSF’s Division of Earth Sciences. “EarthCube will enable geoscientists to find and share the necessary data to answer critical science questions about the Earth.”

NSF created EarthCube in 2011 to foster collaborations across the geosciences from meteorology to seismology. By creating a common cyberinfrastructure for these scientists, the initiative aims to improve predictions of natural events and strengthen society’s resilience to disasters.

More than 2,500 EarthCube contributors, including scientists, educators, and information professionals, are working to develop new technological and computational capabilities. These will help researchers collect, access, analyze, share, and visualize all forms of data and related resources.

“EarthCube offers great promise in that it can bring together scientists across disciplines in new ways to learn more about the natural world,” said UCAR scientist Mohan Ramamurthy, principal investigator and project director of the new EarthCube office. “We’ve worked with EarthCube since its inception, and our technical and scientific expertise will help to increase its benefits for the research community.”

(See videos on the EarthCube initiative)

EarthCube is designed to help researchers across the geosciences work together to address the challenges of understanding and predicting the complexity of the Earth system, from the planet’s geology and water cycle to its atmosphere and even the distant influences of the sun. This type of integrated approach is critical for improved understanding of the environment and to better safeguard society.

Understanding the potential effects of a landfalling hurricane on inland flooding, for example, requires expertise across multiple disciplines. Researchers in meteorology, hydrology, geography, and geology need a common platform to share observations, input them into various computer models, and analyze the resulting data.

The GOES-13 satellite saw Hurricane Irene on August 27, 2011 at 10:10 a.m. EDT after it made landfall at 8 a.m. in Cape Lookout, North Carolina. Irene's outer bands had already extended into New England. Credit: NASA/NOAA GOES Project

The GOES-13 satellite saw Hurricane Irene on August 27, 2011 at 10:10 a.m. EDT after it made landfall at 8 a.m. in Cape Lookout, North Carolina. Irene’s outer bands had already extended into New England. Credit: NASA/NOAA GOES Project

“Currently researchers are spending an enormous amount of time on routine tasks because there is no data system, database, or data infrastructure where they can get all the information they need in some kind of a uniform way from a single interface,” Ramamurthy said. “The goal of EarthCube is to facilitate the integration of data from multiple domains in a way that is easier and faster, while also providing interoperability in terms of standards for data to be input into a common environment.”

The EarthCube science support office had been previously based at the Arizona Geological Survey in Tucson, Arizona.

Michael Thompson, interim president of UCAR, said the organization is well positioned to help EarthCube meet its goals since it provides technological support to the geosciences community, including its 109 member universities that focus on research and training in the atmospheric and related Earth system sciences. UCAR also manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research on behalf of NSF.

“EarthCube will benefit society by helping scientists use large, diverse datasets to improve the ability to predict natural events, such as severe storms and solar disturbances, that can have widespread impacts,” Thompson said. “This is a great opportunity for us to leverage our successful track record in managing large scientific projects.”