Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The European Grid Infrastructure and climate change

This week I am in Trieste for the Role of e-Infrastructures for Climate Change conference at the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics. EGI and e-ScienceTalk are very pleased to be co-sponsoring the event, which gathers climate change and e-infrastructure experts from all corners of the globe. I am particularly looking forward to hearing the perspective of speakers from India, Africa and the Asia Pacific region.

One of this morning’s keynote speakers, Dr Steven Newhouse, Director of EGI, first gave us the European viewpoint, including an outline of what the European Grid Infrastructure provides to climate change science. One of the guiding principles behind what EGI offers is ultimately to be a neutral resource provider: any application, any domain, any technology. This means providing a platform for innovation that is targeted to specific domains, whether high energy physics, life sciences, or in this case, climate change.

If you look through the EGI Applications Database, it shows many applications in the areas of Earth Science. EGI can help to make the relevant data accessible, supporting discovery, access, processing and archiving. This can include data from many sources, such as satellite data from GENESI-DR, and earth-based climate data.

One particular example in the area of climate change is the enviroGRIDS project, which is contributing to the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS). It uses web-based services to share and process large amounts of key environmental information in the Black Sea Catchment, which covers 24 countries and 160 million inhabitants. The main aim of the project is to assess water resource in the past, the present and the future, according to different development scenarios.

The Black Sea Catchment is of particular interest because poor water management in the past has led to a range of environmental problems, including pollution of surface water, excessive algal growth and accelerated erosion. Problems like these can lead to human health risks, degradation of biodiversity, economic decline, and reduced availability of water. One of the tools offered by the enviroGRIDS portal is SWAT (Soil Water Assessment Tool). This provides a hydrological model that can predict water resources, sediment, and chemical yields in a specific watershed, using weather, soil properties, topography, vegetation, and land management practices as input data. The impact of the way the land is managed on water quantity and quality in complex water systems can then be predicted, and practices adjusted if the outcome is likely to be poor.

So for climate change as well as in other research areas, the aim of EGI is to provide what the end user needs and to implement the technology changes required to support this. In effect, the Virtual Organisations that work with EGI will decide what services are deployed and where, allowing them to manage their own deployed infrastructure. The outcome will hopefully be positive not only for the users of the infrastructure, but for everyone impacted by climate change as well.

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