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 IU Trident Indiana University

Polar Grid Equipment Deployed to Greenland and Antarctica to Support Polar Field Research 
Principal Investigator: Geoffrey Fox 
 Funded by National Science Foundation grant number CNS-0723054

Polar Grid Equipment

In the past decade, quality polar science research has become increasingly important as scientists report that the world’s polar ice is decreasing, and sea levels rising. Led by Indiana University (IU), with partners Elizabeth City State University (ECSU), and the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS), the NSF Polar Grid project advances polar research by allowing expedition scientists to begin data analysis while still “in the field”. Polar Grid equipment includes computational clusters, data storage, and networking equipment deployed in polar field locations, as well as two high performance computing clusters at IU and ECSU. Polar Grid equipment will be incorporated into the TeraGrid, the NSF’s national network of high-performance computers and data storage resources. Polar Grid supports both the field expeditions and ice-sheet simulations constrained by data from observations but the former has been initial focus

In May 2008, IU technologists traveled to Greenland to deploy the first Polar Grid equipment. The equipment was used to process data collected on the Jakobshavn Glacier using aerial Synthetic Aperture Radar mounted to airplanes. The planes conducted four-hour data collection flights twice daily for the length of the expedition, yielding 12 terabytes of data on the ice sheets and bedrock below. Using Polar Grid hardware, the irreplaceable data were stored in a redundant manner, with secondary and tertiary backup to prevent loss or damage

CReSIS scientists working in Greenland also used Polar Grid to generate images of the ice and bedrock. Based on these results processed in the field, scientists were able to make adjustments to the radar and sensors, gathering more and better data on areas of the ice sheet that showed the most dramatic change. Field data were then sent back to U.S. for further analysis and processing on IU’s high performance computers.

Based on the Greenland expedition, the IU Polar Grid technologists were able to improve upon the field equipment design before making its second deployment to Thwaites Glacier, Antarctica in September, 2008. This stateof-the-art equipment is allowing CReSIS scientists in Antarctica to conduct large-scale data analysis in real-time – something that was not possible in the past.  The current Antarctica expedition concludes in February, 2009.

NSF GSS Codes:

Primary Field: Geosciences (302) - Hydology and Water Resources Science

Secondary Field: Computer Science (401) - Data Modeling/Warehousing