NASA Earth Science Data Now Available on AWS

By Tiffany Trader

November 12, 2013

NASA and Amazon Web Services have joined forces to provide an easier and more efficient way for researchers to access and process earth science data. A large collection of climate and earth science satellite data produced by the NASA Earth Exchange (NEX) will now be freely available to research and educational users as well as citizen scientists through the AWS cloud. The new project is called OpenNEX.

AWS blogger and chief evangelist Jeff Barr writes: “Up until now, it has been logistically difficult for researchers to gain easy access to this data due to its dynamic nature and immense size (tens of terabytes). Limitations on download bandwidth, local storage, and on-premises processing power made in-house processing impractical.”

The initial collection includes three NASA NEX datasets – over 20TB worth of data – plus Amazon Machine Images (AMIs), and tutorials. The datasets are stored in Amazon S3 as part of the AWS Public Data Sets program. NASA will soon be adding virtual workshops with details on how to use the service and how to process the datasets on AWS.

Here’s a short description of each project:

  • Data for Climate Assessment – The NASA Earth Exchange Downscaled Climate Projections provides high-resolution, bias-corrected climate change projections for the 48 contiguous US states. Researchers can use the data to evaluate climate change impacts on processes that are sensitive to finer-scale climate gradients and the effects of local topography on climate conditions.
  • Landsat Global Land Survey – Developed with the U.S. Geological Survey, Landsat is the longest existing continuous space-based record of Earth’s land, spanning four decades. Landsat has applications in agriculture, geology, forestry, regional planning, education, mapping, and climate change. It also serves as a resource for emergency and disaster relief efforts.
  • MODIS Vegetation Indies – The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites offers a global view of Earth’s surface every 1 to 2 days. Potential applications include global biogeochemical and hydrologic modeling, agricultural monitoring and forecasting, land-use planning, land cover characterization, and land cover change detection.

The NASA Earth Exchange (NEX) is a research platform of the NASA Advanced Supercomputer Facility at the agency’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. NEX brings together advanced supercomputing, earth system modeling, workflow management, and NASA remote-sensing data, enabling users to explore and analyze large earth science data sets, run and share modeling algorithms, collaborate on new or existing projects and share results.

The OpenNEX initiative continues NASA’s tradition of using cloud platforms to support open science in line with the Obama Administration’s Open Data Executive Order.

“We are excited to grow an ecosystem of researchers and developers who can help us solve important environmental research problems,” reports Rama Nemani, principal scientist for the NEX project. “Our goal is that people can easily gain access to and use a multitude of data analysis services quickly through AWS to add knowledge and open source tools for others’ benefit.”

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