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NCAR's Data Archives Reach the One-Petabyte Stratosphere

Earth by Apollo 17
Boulder - Mar 26, 2003
With the help of an innovative storage system, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) has surpassed the one-petabyte mark in its data holdings, which range from satellite, atmosphere, ocean, and land-use data to depictions of weather and climate from prehistoric times to the year 2100 and beyond.

At one petabyte, the archive is now more than a thousand times larger than in 1986, when it reached the one-terabyte level. One petabyte of data is 1,024 terabytes, or the equivalent of 500 billion pages of standard printed text. That's enough data to fill 500 million floppy disks and enough information to fill the Library of Congress 100 times.

NCAR passed the petabyte mark in January using equipment provided by StorageTek, whose automated tape systems and tape drives have been in use at the center since 1986. The NCAR archives--among the world's largest in atmospheric science-- maintain output from sophisticated computer models of global climate.

These simulations of past, present, and future states of the atmosphere are carried out by NCAR- and university-based scientists on a set of IBM supercomputers that rank as the 10th and 33rd most powerful on Earth, according to The computing facility is located at NCAR's Mesa Laboratory in Boulder.

"NCAR is unique in its mission of long-range and long-term atmospheric research," says Al Kellie, director of the NCAR Scientific Computing Division. "We generate and analyze the data to help understand complex climate systems and the interrelations among climate, weather, the sun, the biosphere, and the oceans.

"While it took us nearly 16 years to reach the one-petabyte mark," Kellie adds, "we expect to achieve two petabytes of data storage within the next year."

Established in 1986, the current NCAR Mass Storage System includes five high-performance StorageTek PowderHorn automated tape systems, incorporating the company's T9840 fast-access and T9940 high-capacity tape drives.

The systems include robotic arms swapping tapes at high speed, a process that NCAR visitors will be able to watch through dedicated monitors stationed outside NCAR's computing room after a major remodeling of NCAR's Mesa Laboratory is completed this summer.

"We congratulate NCAR for its achievements in the scientific community," said Gary Francis, StorageTek corporate vice president and general manager for Automated Tape Solutions.

"We are also especially proud and honored that NCAR has chosen StorageTek as the guardian of its precious data. NCAR predicts a total data holding of more than 11 petabytes in 200 million files by the year 2005. We'll be ready for them."

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Sunny Days, Blue Skies For ESA And Satellite Meteorology
Paris (ESA) Mar 25, 2003
The European Space Agency has accepted an invitation to join an international group that coordinates the planning and data procedures of meteorological satellites. Called the Coordination Group for Meteorological Satellites (CGMS), the organisation provides a forum for meteorological satellite operators and others to come together explore ways to guarantee the maximum efficiency and usefulness of their systems on a global scale.

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