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Enabling Climate Systems Science research

The AARNet network supports collaboration, virtual laboratories, climate model experiments and the transport of huge amounts of data required for climate research to be carried out successfully.

Enabling Climate Systems Science research

Climate Systems Science research relies on the capabilities of AARNet.

The Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science has brought together five universities, multiple institutional partners and international partner organisations to answer some of the most vexing and fundamental questions about how our climate works. 

AARNet infrastructure underpins the work of the Centre, enabling collaborations, virtual laboratories, climate model experiments and the transport and storage of huge amounts of data required for climate research to be carried out successfully.

The Centre of Excellence for Climate Systems Science was specifically created by the Australian Research Council to tackle large climate questions that were difficult for single institutions to undertake.

For this reason the work of the Centre is particularly focused on five areas that are not only important for understanding Australia's climate but which will have important outcomes for international research into understanding global climate.

The Centre’s researchers are looking at:

  • The effects of tropical convection, which drive many of the weather systems that can dominate our climate.
  • Australia's climate extremes - how they develop, their impacts and whether they can be attributed to climate change.
  • How land-use and landforms can alter the climate at a regional level and the likely impacts that climate change will have in regions that are important to the functioning of our society.
  • The oceans around Australia and how they will affect our climate, which will give scientists an insight into how they may change in response to global warming. This is vital because oceans are the prime cooling mechanism for our planet and have a massive effect on weather systems and future warming.
  • The variability of Australia's climate, which is one of the most extreme in the world is particularly important for us to understand. Researchers in this area are looking at the mechanisms behind El Niño systems, changing ocean temperatures, atmospheric systems and a whole host of climate influences that will impact Australia now and into the future.

To understand the complexity of our climate researchers utilise a sophisticated range of network-enabled information technologies 

These tools range from highly complex climate models and data management and analysis systems through to important virtual conference systems that allow researchers to engage on a daily basis across institutions separated by thousands of miles.

An important part of the Centre’s work has been the creation of virtual laboratories. These laboratories have transformed the way climate models are run and the results analysed by researchers right across the country.

In the past, researchers could spend months configuring climate models before they could perform a simulation experiment. Today, with the virtual laboratories installed and supported by the Centre of Excellence and partners, it is possible to set up and run climate models in a matter of hours or days.

This has had a huge impact on both the quality and the quantity of research that is coming out of the Centre.

There is also an extraordinary amount of data generated by these models, with climate scientists talking in terms of petabytes of storage space. To get a sense of the scale of this, a single petabyte equals one million gigabytes.

This massive amount of data has to be stored for the use of other climate researchers. Archiving data from these experiments will allow future scientists to duplicate climate model experiments but with new information gained from a better understanding of the climate system.

As can be imagined, this requires a huge data storage capability together with the necessary management and support infrastructure.

Research networks enable researchers to access data from anywhere

In addition, the Centre is working on a variety of special projects that will make climate model data accessible to other researchers. Researchers and programmers at the Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science are developing a web portal that will allow agricultural, ecological, hydrological and population researchers to access regional climate model data in a way they can use.

Previously, extracting the information produced by climate models forecasting future climate changes in a usable form was extraordinarily difficult. The new website will be able to produce regional forecast data such as temperature, humidity, rainfall and more hundreds of years into the future. There are potentially 100 different types of data that can be made available from each region.

Importantly, this data can be isolated to very limited regions deriving results from areas as small as 10sqkm.

Connecting through advanced networks like AARNet makes this work. Almost everything the Centre accomplishes through its world leading research collaborations relies on the capabilities of AARNet.

What our customers are saying

“An astronomer needs access to a telescope and an oceanographer needs access to a ship. I'm a climate scientist and I need access to a petaflop computer and a petabyte storage array for my data. AARNet provides me with those services and capabilities wherever I happen to be located in the world and that enables me to do my research ”

Professor Andy Pitman, Director ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Systems Science.