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NASA, Amazon Launch Earth Data Repository

NASA has uploaded terabytes of earth-science satellite data to Amazon Web Services, with more to come, to aid researchers and developers.

NASA's Next 5 Missions
NASA's Next 5 Missions
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Amazon has agreed to host a big-data project for earth science -- on a scale never attempted before. Everyone from high school students to university and corporate researchers will have access to the data.

Amazon has established a public repository of climate and geological information collected by NASA for public use. The placement of the data on Amazon Web Services will give it proximity to what are expected to be many researcher applications that can avoid data transfer charges if they also are located on AWS.

"By bringing these NASA public data assets into the AWS cloud, we help NASA engage a larger community for global change impact modeling and analysis," said Jamie Kinney, AWS senior manager for scientific computing, in the announcement of the repository. The data is expected to be used in research on climate change, weather forecasting, and earth's surface conditions. Applications tracking regional rainfall, ice cap shrinkage, and other features of the globe will be made possible through the availability of the data. The centralized, public repository will be located at

[ Want more on NASA research projects? See NASA's Moon Laser Sets Data Speed Record. ]

One data set is the NASA Earth Exchange (NEX) downscaled climate simulations. It provides high-resolution climate change projections for the 48 contiguous US states. A second data set was provided by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites. It offers a global view of earth's surface in one- to two-day cycles. The third is the Landsat data record from the US Geological Survey. It provides the longest continuous space-based record of Earth's land.

"NASA and AWS are delivering faster time to science and taking the complexity out of accessing this important climate data," Kinney said.

"Terabytes of data" from three satellite and computer-modeling datasets have been uploaded to AWS, with more to come, according to the announcement. The data sets contain information on temperature change, precipitation, and forest cover. They can be processed with tools from the NASA Earth Exchange research platform at the Advanced Supercomputer Facility at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

By making the data available to the public, NASA is implicitly encouraging more research using the information that it is able to collect. Rama Nemani, principal scientist of the NEX project at Ames, said that's part of the goal. "People can easily gain access to and use a multitude of data analysis services quickly through AWS," he said in a statement. "We are excited to grow an ecosystem of researchers and developers."
The data includes some collected from the 1950s, allowing researchers to check out for themselves whether there have been significant temperature changes in different parts of the world.

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User Rank: Strategist
11/18/2013 | 8:15:53 PM
Academic, citizen researchers get valuable data
This repository is going to spur a lot of university and citizen research. For example, if I lived in the Rocky Mountains, I'd want to plot the rising temperature gradient as it moves up the mountain slopes. Bark beetles die if they encounter a winter temperature of -50, but fewer of them are, they're spreading among the Lodge Pole Pines and killing them by the 100,000s. How about a Google Maps and Earth Exchange mashup that shows when they'll reach your neighborhood? The creation of this repository is going to be a spur to action in many ways.
User Rank: Ninja
11/18/2013 | 3:57:16 PM
This is fabulous, and it's probably going to be quite disruptive to the companies who make money by making these datasets much easier to get than how the federal government currently makes them available.
Alison Diana
Alison Diana,
User Rank: Moderator
11/18/2013 | 9:33:56 AM
Countdown from the Space Coast
I'd guess this repository will eventually house data that'll be collected from today's launch to Mars. Here on the Space Coast of Florida we're excitedly awaiting the 1:30-ish countdown. It's not as thrilling as the old manned missions, but there is still a thrill associated with walking out the front door and watching a rocket blasting into space. 
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