Climate modelling research has always been an international collaborative effort, particularly in the area of evaluating climate models, and Australian climate scientists have made significant contributions to the field over many years.
Predicting the future climate
Climate is a complex system, involving the atmosphere, land, oceans, rivers and lakes, snow and ice, and living things, powered by the sun. Climate models use quantitative methods to simulate the interactions between these various components of the Earth’s climate system. They are used to project future climate and to help us understand and predict the impact of human activities on climate.
Australian climate scientists have participated in a number of coordinated assessments of the performance of climate models. Their work has fed into the intergovernmental assessments undertaken through the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
For these co-ordinated assessments, the World Climate Research Program Coupled Model Intercomparison Project designed a series of experiments and data archives for the simulations the experiments produced.
Terascale volumes of data
To manage the ever-increasing terascale volumes of data from these experiments, and to support climate and environmental science in general, the Earth System Grid Federation (ESGF) was established.
ESGF nodes are distributed across the globe and are interconnected by high performance research networks. The ESGF allows scientists to easily access data and analyse models in not only their own countries but in other countries. For example, scientists in Australia, and all over the world, are able look at a range of features, phenomena and events across all the available climate models to see how well the models simulate El Niño, or rainfall, in Australia.
The ESGF node in Australia is located at the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) at the Australian National University.
International big data transfers
Australia’s past and future contributions to assessments for the IPCC rely on AARNet. Since 2008, data has been transferred between NCI and the ESGF node at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California via the AARNet/Southern Cross Cable Network SXTransPORT international links to the United States.
“Access to a reliable, high bandwidth trans-Pacific network is vital for enabling Australian scientists to participate in climate modelling research. Massive amounts of data need to be moved around the world and synchronised and if we didn’t have the confidence in the AARNet network we couldn’t participate,” said Dr Ben Evans, Associate Director NCI.
Image credit: Climate model courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech