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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.

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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, publie 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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
11/14/2013 | 4:45:41 PM
re: NASA, Amazon Launch Earth Data Repository
This data probably will fuel the climate change debate but that's not its primary purpose. It's going to produce a lot of unexpected results from citizen researchers who get their hands on the data and do unexpected things with it. How about mapping the temperature gradients in the heart of winter as warmer temperatures climb Rocky Mountain slopes. That could be combined with a Google map of dying lodge pole pines, creating a citizen's map of the spread of the bark beetle. Coming to a neighborhood near you, soon, Rocky Mountain researchers.
Li Tan
Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
11/14/2013 | 5:24:51 AM
re: NASA, Amazon Launch Earth Data Repository
This is really a good news and anther big step taken by Amazon and NASA. I believe it will benefit the researchers. Furthermore, by absorbing this big amount of geological data, AWS also get its footprint and visibility in cloud computing strengthened. I am quite curious to know about the details - does it use spatial database based on OpenGIS standard?:-)
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
11/13/2013 | 9:13:29 PM
re: NASA, Amazon Launch Earth Data Repository
Big ideology > big data, at least when it comes to climate change.
D. Henschen
D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
11/13/2013 | 5:13:45 PM
re: NASA, Amazon Launch Earth Data Repository
Big data sets about Earth! For scientists already in the cloud, this a boon to weather forecasting and research on climate change. If you're not in the cloud, well, some data-transfer charges (as in BIG data-transfer charges) are likely to apply.

On another topic, Charlie Babcock, author of this article, recently visited Glacier National Park and he tells me global warming has this spot headed for a name change: Big Mountains & Stagnant Lakes National Park.
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