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High-resolution atmospheric modeling gets a boost with next-gen GEOS-Chem software
Two visualizations using the same data generated by High Performance GEOS-Chem (top) and the original GEOS-Chem software (bottom). High Performance GEOS-Chem created an image more resolute than the original GEOS-Chem software by a factor of 200. (Image credit: Randall Martin / Washington University)
High-resolution atmospheric modeling gets a boost with next-gen GEOS-Chem software
by Rocket Boy
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Oct 25, 2023

In a significant leap forward for atmospheric science, researchers from Washington University's McKelvey School of Engineering have rolled out an advanced version of GEOS-Chem, known as High Performance GEOS-Chem. This next-generation software paves the way for researchers, policymakers, and citizen scientists to conduct highly detailed studies of air quality and greenhouse gases, using meteorological data from NASA's Goddard Earth Observation System (GEOS).

Traditionally, the spatial resolution of atmospheric models has been a limitation. The original GEOS-Chem software, introduced in 2001, had a spatial resolution of approximately 200 by 250 square kilometers. That's roughly twice the geographical size of New Jersey. The enhanced High Performance GEOS-Chem dramatically changes the game, offering a horizontal spatial resolution of 12 kilometers by 12 kilometers per pixel, an area that is about one-fifth the size of New York City.

Randall Martin, a professor at Washington University and the Primary Investigator of the High Performance GEOS-Chem project, stated, "This new generation of High Performance GEOS-Chem offers major advancements for ease of use, computational performance, versatility, resolution, and accuracy." The enhanced resolution will be particularly valuable for local communities and specific research projects that require highly detailed atmospheric modeling.

During a recent technical demonstration, Martin and his research team contrasted images produced by both the original and the High Performance GEOS-Chem software. The demonstration focused on mapping tropospheric nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant generally emitted from burning fossil fuels. The results were striking: the image produced using the High Performance GEOS-Chem software had 200 million more grid cells than its predecessor. Martin added, "Many features can be examined that aren't resolved at all at the coarser resolution."

To achieve these remarkable results, the development team incorporated several technological advancements into the new software. Notably, a cubed-sphere computation grid was added, reducing noise at the poles and thereby allowing for higher resolution. Additionally, High Performance GEOS-Chem now includes cloud computing capabilities. This means the resource-intensive computational work required to generate intricate atmospheric models can be distributed across dispersed computing nodes, such as Amazon Web Services, for more efficient processing.

The team emphasizes that GEOS-Chem will continue to be an open-source resource. To support the community of users, they provide comprehensive resources on their website, including tutorials, manuals, and guides to make the software accessible and effective for diverse applications. "NASA enabled us to develop this new generation of GEOS-Chem that has both the additional technical performance and offers the ease of use that this large community requires," Martin said.

While High Performance GEOS-Chem already represents a significant improvement over previous versions, the team has further aspirations. Among the enhancements on the drawing board are a better user interface and increased modularity for the software.

This development was made possible by funding from NASA's Advanced Information Systems Technology (AIST), which is part of NASA's Earth Science Technology Office (ESTO). The investment underscores the vital role that advanced computational tools play in our understanding of the Earth's atmosphere and how it interacts with local environments.

ai.spacedaily.com analysis

Relevance Scores:

1. Space and Earth Science Industry Analyst: 9/10
2. Stock and Finance Market Analyst: 6/10
3. Government Policy Analyst: 8/10

Analyst Summary:

The article discusses the development of a next-generation software called "High Performance GEOS-Chem," which significantly improves the ability to model air quality and greenhouse gases using NASA's meteorological data. Compared to its predecessor developed in 2001, the new software offers a spatial resolution that is drastically more detailed-reducing the area of analysis to approximately 12 km by 12 km per pixel. This allows for an unprecedented local focus, thereby being immensely relevant to researchers, policymakers, and even citizen scientists interested in air quality and atmospheric chemistry.


- Space and Earth Science Industry: Given that air quality and greenhouse gases are critical components of Earth Science, the new software is a milestone. Over the past 25 years, there has been a growing demand for more accurate and localized data. This software fits into this trajectory by offering resolutions that can show localized effects of global atmospheric trends.

- Stock and Finance Market: Companies invested in environmental monitoring, cloud computing (like Amazon Web Services), and big data analytics may benefit from this development. The software's cloud computing capabilities indicate a potential market for infrastructure services.

- Government Policy: The software has direct policy implications, as governments can use this tool to monitor air quality at a very local level and create targeted environmental policies. It also aids in international cooperation to tackle global issues like climate change.

Comparison with Past Trends:

Over the last 25 years, we've moved from a phase of simply gathering data from satellite technologies to the sophisticated interpretation of this data for practical applications. While the 1990s focused largely on launching advanced meteorological satellites, the emphasis has since shifted to analytics, modeling, and policy applications, as evidenced by this software.

Future Impacts:

Future versions are expected to feature improvements like better user interfaces and increased modularity, making it even more accessible and versatile.

Investigative Questions:

1. How does the new GEOS-Chem software compare to other existing atmospheric modeling tools in terms of accuracy and computational efficiency?

2. What are the economic implications for companies involved in cloud computing and environmental monitoring?

3. Could this software be integrated into existing governmental air quality monitoring systems?

4. What kind of interdisciplinary collaborations can maximize the utility of High Performance GEOS-Chem?

5. How might this software influence future international climate agreements by providing more localized data?

By addressing these questions, stakeholders can better assess the software's capabilities and its potential to revolutionize multiple sectors.

Related Links
Earth Science Technology Office
Earth Observation News - Suppiliers, Technology and Application

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