IU receives NSF grant to help climate scientists protect coastal cities
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 19, 2012
BLOOMINGTON, Ind.— Indiana University received a $492,588 National Science Foundation grant to help scientists study rising sea levels and the impact of storm surge on coastal communities. Through this grant, IU will improve the performance of oceanic computer models, which scientists use to protect millions of people living near coasts around the world.
Beth Plale, director of IU's Data to Insight Center and the project's principal investigator, will use a commercial cloud computing platform to improve the use of coastal ocean models. Scientists use these models to predict the storm surge heights in a variety of coastal environments, and in turn can predict hurricane storm surge flooding and help federal agencies create evacuation plans. It is hoped that Plale's research will help decision makers build the hazard-resistant coastal communities of the future.
"The ability to run larger numbers of models faster will help scientists better understand how hurricane strength and sea-level rise affect coastlines," said Plale, "By studying these changes, scientists can work to protect coastal communities—home to one-tenth of the world's population."
Essentially, Plale is creating cloud-based software that enables the deployment of large numbers of water-motion scenarios, automatically capturing descriptive information about the data that comes from these predictions. By collecting the data's details, scientists can more easily share and find results relevant to their own research.
Cloud computing is the technical term for a practice most of us do every day: Internet-based computing using shared resources, software, and information. (Google Docs and online photo storage services like Flickr are examples.)
"Cloud computing is an important economic driver, but it remains difficult to use in computationally driven scientific research," said Plale. "This project lowers the barriers to conducting e-science by making it easier for any researcher with a similar need—such as running many independent tasks on a strict timeline—to use cloud resources."
As sea levels rise, scientists predict that storm surges will reach previously unaffected human populations. With the data the models will generate using cloud resources, better planning can be done, Plale said.
Plale's partners on the project are the University of Miami, the National Hurricane Center, and Microsoft.
About the Data to Insight Center
The Data to Insight Center engages in interdisciplinary research and education in the preservation of scientific data, digital humanities, large-scale data management, data analytics, and visualization. It is part of the Pervasive Technology Institute, IU's flagship initiative for advanced information technology research, development, and delivery in support of research, scholarship, and artistic performances. For more, see d2i.indiana.edu.