Sunday, March 22, 2009

‘Planetary skin’ tool aims to improve response to climate change

NewsBlaze: Every day, on and above Earth, millions of sensors collect vast amounts of data representing interactions among the planet's systems of land, air, water and life. This is the kind of data needed to address the complexities of climate change or a move to a low-carbon-dioxide world economy, but gathering it is just the first step.

The next steps, barely possible given the state of information technology, involve integrating data from air- and space-borne and terrestrial instruments with computer models of climate, ecosystems and biological systems, then analyzing and reporting results that can be scaled to the needs of nations and communities.

On March 3, at a U.S. Climate Action Symposium in Washington, NASA and Cisco Systems, a $39 billion, U.S.-based designer and seller of networking and communications technology and services, announced a research and development (R&D) collaboration to build such a system.

Over the next several years, according to a Cisco statement, Planetary Skin will provide a common platform for integrating data; scientific, economic and risk models; data processing and communication networks; and visualization and collaboration tools. "We're trying to convert the geophysical and biological data products into information that can be used by policy and management decisionmakers," Steve Hipskind, chief of the NASA Ames Research Center's Earth Science Division in California, told

…Under their agreement, NASA and Cisco will develop the Planetary Skin as an online collaborative platform, making the data available to the public, governments and businesses. "When you're talking about a global collaboration in which all nations have to do their part in terms of mitigation and adaptation, you need to be able to monitor and verify [CO2 emissions]," Castilla-Rubio said. Planetary Skin, he said, will be able to help meet that requirement.

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