When she returned from the High North, the research icebreaker Polarstern brought with her a vast wealth of data – data that will take years to analyse. “Here one of the key focuses is shedding light on why the Arctic sea ice is shrinking to such an extent, and what consequences it will have for the climate on our planet,” says Project Coordinator Dr Sebastian Mieruch-Schnülle from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI). “Researchers around the globe therefore have a tremendous interest in easy and user-friendly access to the data from the MOSAiC expedition. The aim of the M-VRE project is to provide just this access.”
Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding the project ‘M-VRE: MOSAiC – Virtual Research Environment’ as part of the German government’s research programme ‘MARE:N – Coastal, Marine and Polar Research for Sustainability’. Together with the German Climate Computing Centre (DKRZ) in Hamburg, and the German Aerospace Center’s (DLR’s) Institute of Data Science in Jena, over the next three years the AWI will develop a system of online tools which researchers around the globe can use to efficiently explore, analyse and visualise the MOSAiC data.
One of the tools will be an online version of the tried and tested ‘Ocean Data View’ software developed by the AWI, which currently has 10,000 users worldwide. “With webODV, researchers can delve deep into the datasets and rapidly obtain attractive graphics, maps and cross-sections of the ocean with just a few mouse clicks,” says Mieruch-Schnülle. “The focus here is on interdisciplinarity. For instance, the temperature of the atmosphere is often saved in a different format than the temperature of the seawater. We will process the data in such a way that atmospheric physicists can see the air temperature, but at the same time also the temperature profile of the ocean below, and the thickness of the ice.”
The tools developed in the project will take into account the scientific community’s various preferences and requirements. Anyone who likes working with a mouse can use webODV. On the other hand, for those who do a great deal of programming and need to evaluate especially large datasets, ‘Data Cubes’, which is now being developed at the DLR in Jena, offers the ideal tool. To ensure that it functions smoothly even when there are large numbers of users, the DKRZ in Hamburg, in collaboration with the AWI, will create a corresponding systematic substructure (back end).
“Tools will be available on a joint dashboard and offer various disciplines and professions the type of access they need to the MOSAiC data,” explains Mieruch-Schnülle. “First of all, researchers from the MOSAiC consortium will have access. But in the medium term, we want to open the system for the public at large. This means that interested non-experts will also be able to access and use this valuable information from the Arctic, for instance as part of citizen science projects.”