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NASA, NOAA Turn to Cloud to Transform Environmental Data Storage

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Federal agencies tasked with gathering and storing climate-related data are turning to cloud computing and artificial intelligence to store, analyze and preserve vast amounts of information about the potential effects of global warming, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are working with technology companies Google, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft to move their climate databases into the cloud to accommodate the rapid growth of information used in climate studies.

Robert Lee Hotz wrote in WSJ’s The Future of Everything series that the total volume of the U.S. environmental data archives is expected to grow from about 83 petabytes to more than 650 petabytes over the next decade. The growth will be driven by projects aimed at gathering data about the natural phenomena on Earth and its atmosphere, including NASA’s NISAR radar imaging satellite and the space agency’s Surface Water and Ocean Topography mission.

“This is a new era for Earth observation missions, and the huge amount of data they will generate requires a new era of data handling,” said Kevin Murphy, NASA’s chief science data officer.

Nancy Ritchie, archive branch chief at the National Centers for Environmental Information in Asheville, North Carolina, said NOAA expects to move all of its Earth science archives into the cloud by 2027. 

In addition to the cloud, scientists are looking at the potential application of artificial intelligence in attribution science.

“There is a lot of data sitting around and AI, I argue, is the cheapest way to unlock the insights from the data,” said Claire Monteleoni, a computer scientist at the University of Colorado specializing in climate data systems.

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