The Earth System Curator
The Earth System Curator project is creating a software environment for assembling, running, and archiving information about climate models. The intent is to make it easier for scientists to search, browse, and compare models, model components, and datasets in a distributed collaborative environment. Curator partners include NCAR (the Earth System Grid and Earth System Modeling Framework projects), the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, MIT, and the Georgia Institute of Technology.
This is the user interface of a prototype portal that supports the description, search, browse, distribution, and comparison of models and datasets. It was developed jointly by the Curator project, the Earth System Grid, and the NCAR Cyberinfrastructure Strategic Initiative. The screen shown enables modelers to browse across models, model sub-components, datasets, and specific model simulations using a faceted search approach that enables users to successively narrow and refine their target. The portal is part of an effort to create comprehensive new computational environments for climate modeling and analysis, and it was deployed initially to support a 2008 NCAR Advanced Study Program summer colloquium focused on intercomparing the dynamical cores of atmospheric models.
The Curator project was motivated by the increasing globalization of climate modeling and analysis activities. It began in 2005 during preparations for the Fourth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment and report. Many factors contributed to the desire to create an Earth System Curator portal: the increasing complexity of climate models, the emergence of data standards that enhanced the ability to compare model outputs, the new social, scientific, and technical interactions stimulated by the assessment and other model intercomparison projects, and the need for a distributed collaborative environment capable of supporting international collaborations. The portal was intended to extend and enhance projects such as the Earth System Grid data distribution portal by helping it evolve into a more comprehensive computational environment.
By creating a collaborative modeling environment that serves the climate domain, the Earth System Curator supports the NCAR strategic priority of "Developing community models for weather, climate, atmospheric chemistry, and solar-terrestrial research." It also fulfills NCAR's strategic priority of "Creating an Earth System Knowledge Environment" by serving as a key element of this effort to integrate the suite of infrastructure and scientific software at NCAR and improve support of modeling and analysis workflows. This effort has leveraged the Science Gateway Framework developed as part of the Cyberinfrastructure Strategic Initiative. The Science Gateway Framework enables developers to reuse a foundation of common infrastructure to create custom portals.
During FY2008 the Curator team worked with the Earth System Grid project and the NCAR Cyberinfratructure Strategic Initiative to create a prototype portal. The portal included a faceted search and browse function developed by ESG with detailed scientific properties collected by the Curator group, a trackback page that retrieved specific configuration of models used to generate datasets, and a table for dynamically comparing the properties of selected components. The portal was used to support the 2008 NCAR ASP colloquium entitled Numerical Techniques for Global Atmospheric Models, which compared 13 atmospheric dynamical cores from different groups.
During FY2008 the Curator group also advanced the ability to automatically document the configurations and properties of models. Working with the Earth System Modeling Framework (ESMF) group, SIParCS student Rocky Dunlap from the Georgia Institute of Technology prototyped the capability to generate descriptive XML files from models using ESMF and upload them into the prototype portal. Information about the models is automatically propagated throughout the portal internals and interface. This enables modelers to capture information about specific models and model versions with much greater ease and detail than previously possible.
In FY2009 the Curator team will help transition the portal from its prototype status into production in the Earth System Grid. The team will also work with technical leads, both U.S. and international, of the next IPCC assessment to develop new portal capabilities related to metadata.
Earth System Curator is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation Science Engineering Information Integration and Informatics program, and by a NASA grant from the Science Mission Directorate.