Everything from droughts to floods depends on water's energy transfer from the Earth's surface to the lower atmosphere. The study of this energy transfer, called 'hydro-meteorology,' is important in forecasting weather patterns, but until now researchers have relied on privately owned data archives maintained by national agencies.
National-level archived data is of limited use in analyzing weather systems that move freely across countries, as they do in Europe. And, while the World Meteorological Organization coordinates international exchange of meteorological data, their files do not include much of the high-resolution data required for hydro-meteorological research.
Now, DRIHMS (Distributed Research Infrastructure for Hydro-Meteorology Study) offers a bridge between hydro-meteorological research (HMR) and Information and Computing Technology (ICT) communities, enabling research sharing and data processing across Europe.
"To date, e-science investment has had little impact on HMR," said Antonio Parodi from the International Center on Environmental Monitoring (CIMA).
DRIHMS, a consortium of scientific institutes such as CIMA and various ICT research centers, hope to incorporate grid-based technologies and establish data standards, so that research can be easily shared among various scientists.
To do so, their first task is to identify the requirements of users and match them to capabilities of the newly developed computing infrastructures. To evaluate this effort, DRIHMS is running two surveys to collect the requirements of their various research communities. When results are in, they will assess and allocate suitable ICT resources. To date, they have received almost 300 completed questionnaires from scientists worldwide.
The need for large data sets and complex numerical models is not unique to hydro-meteorology. A number of initiatives have been undertaken to advance the ICT infrastructure of scientific fields, from particle physics to bioinformatics. These fall under the term of e-science and include EGI (European Grid Infrastructure), SEE-GRID-SCI (South East Europe-GRID e-Infrastructure for regional e-Science), and Germany's C3-Grid.
DRIHMS is another branch of these projects, and it is also organizing networking activities (including web based questionnaires, consultation meetings and conferences) for hydrometeorology and grid scientists. This is in order to overcome current limitations in the sharing of tools and knowledge in the European HMR community. Project members hope this framework will foster a common understanding among participants.
They are also identifying research areas that require a network-based and distributed software approach, with the aim of lowering computing costs, and creating faster and more accurate computation results. They aim to discuss, define and disseminate the requirements for porting and deploying scientific applications that can work with different grid middleware, the next step to fusing the research of distributed weather and climate science across Europe and the wider world.
"Severe hydro-meteorological events are increasing. The societal and economic implications include loss of life and property damage," said Parodi.
With a HMR infrastructure, he thinks scientists can better forecast extreme meteorological events, reducing the number of lives lost and the damage to infrastructure, and enable better rescue operations in areas known to be high risk.