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The NASA GES DISC 2011 Top 10 List

Data set updates, Simple Subset Wizard, Giovanni publications, and User Working Group part of an eventful year

The NASA GES DISC 2011 Top 10 List

Image of 2011 highlights for the NASA GES DISC. Key to the images appears at the end of the article.

The NASA GES DISC 2011 Top 10 List


The staff of the NASA Goddard Earth Sciences Data and Information Services Center (GES DISC) is working every day to provide data from NASA missions to the scientific community and the public.   The end of one calendar year and the beginning of a new one provide a chance to look back at the year's highlights, and to look forward to more accomplishments during the next orbit of the Earth around the Sun.   Listed below are the Top 10 highlights from the GES DISC in 2011.


Data Archive and Distribution

1.       GES DISC provides important data set updates

The primary mission of the NASA Goddard Earth Sciences Data and Information Services Center is the archive and distribution of data from NASA Earth observing satellite missions, and related data sets from modeling and data processing projects.   During 2011, this continuing mission included the following updates:


  • Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Version 7 data;
  • North American Land Data Assimilation System (NLDAS) hourly data;
  • Global Land Data Assimilation System (GLDAS) 3-hourly data;
  • High-Resolution Dynamics Limb Sounder (HIRDLS) Version 006 Level 2 data;
  • Global Precipitation Climatology Project (GPCP) Version 2.2 data;
  • Atmospheric CO2 Observations from Space Version 2.8 algorithm data;
  • Aura Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) Version 3.3 data;
  • Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE) Collection 11 data;
  • and recovered data on film from the early Nimbus satellite missions.


Research and Applications

2.   Summer heat wave, Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee, fires in southwest US and Canada, climate change and coffee observed with data from the GES DISC


Throughout the year, staff members exercised the data visualization and analysis capabilities developed by the GES DISC to demonstrate to the scientific community and the public how NASA earth observation data can be used to examine climate and weather events that made news headlines – from the floods of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, droughts and heat waves in the southern Plains states, to volcanic ash plumes, dust storms, and devastating fires.  In addition, due to concerns about the future of caffeine based on reports of weather-related crop losses in Colombia and Brazil, a news feature looked at the effects of climate change on coffee growing, and indicated that fears of reduced harvests and more expensive premium coffee are “grounded” in reality.


3.   Giovanni exceeds 400 research publications

The innovative NASA Giovanni data analysis and visualization system, hosted by the GES DISC, demonstrated again this year that it is being increasingly employed for a broad variety of scientific research topics. The best evidence for this acceptance by the scientific community is the ever-growing list of peer-reviewed scientific research publications in which the use of Giovanni was a vital component.   There were more publications using Giovanni in 2011 than in 2010 and any year prior, (even though the compilation of 2011 publications is not yet complete) and the full count of publications since its inception now exceeds 400. Add to that the use of Giovanni in dissertations, reports, meeting presentations, and multiple levels of education, and it is clear that Giovanni is becoming an expected primary source for NASA data for researchers around the world.


4. GES DISC begins MEaSUREs data archive

The NASA MEaSUREs program is aimed at developing long-term, consistent, and calibrated data and products that are valid across multiple missions and satellite sensors, with the goal of creating Earth Science Data Records (ESDRs).   The GES DISC is the designated archive for seven MEaSUREs projects; in 2011, two of these projects, entitled “Global Water and Energy Cycle Research Version 2b (GSSTF2b)” and “Consistent Long-Term Aerosol Data Records over Land and Ocean from SeaWiFS” provided data to the GES DISC for archival and distribution.


5.  Data-Enhanced Investigations for Climate Change Education (DICCE) Project commences

The first NASA-funded project to enhance Giovanni for education moved into its operational phase in 2011.   New portals optimized for climate change education at the high school level were created, and these portals were being refined for testing by the use of teachers in southern and northern California, New Mexico, and Massachusetts before being released to the general educational community.   The new portals feature “enhanced help” sections which provide detailed information on the data parameters that can be utilized by students and teachers; what they represent and what trends in these parameters can indicate about climate change. New videos demonstrating Giovanni basic techniques will enhance the ability of teachers and students to use Giovanni in the classroom, within a customized project development interface called the DICCE Learning Environment.  The lead organization for the DICCE Project is SRI International in Menlo Park, California.


6.  GES DISC is part of LANCE for AIRS and MLS data:

While climate and the environment are one of the main foci of GES DISC data users, there is also a need for data delivered as fast as possible, to allow observations and even predictions of fast-developing events.   The Land Atmosphere Near-real-time Capability for EOS (LANCE) provides Earth observation data quickly, from several different NASA satellite instruments.   The GES DISC is a vital partner in LANCE, providing NRT data from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) and the Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS). This NRT capability was demonstrated when AIRS observed the sulfur dioxide plume from the subglacial eruption of Iceland’s Grimsvotn volcano. 


7. New Data Portals Added to Giovanni

In conjunction with the data archive and distribution activities of the NASA GES DISC, the Giovanni system added new data portals in 2011.   The North American Land Data Assimilation System (NLDAS) Hourly data portal now provides hydrological data parameters at an astounding one-hour temporal resolution, allowing detailed examination of the effects of floods, droughts, severe storms, and other meteorological events, from the atmosphere to below ground level. The Global Land Data Assimilation System (GLDAS) 3-Hourly data portal is similarly amazing, providing hydrological parameters with full global resolution at a temporal resolution of three hours; one of the four GLDAS models also extends back in time to 1948.   Another leap of temporal resolution was provided by the new Ocean Color Radiometry 8-day data portal, which gives users access to ocean data with eight-day (rather than monthly) temporal resolution from both the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Aqua satellite. And the next-generation Giovanni is preparing the AeroStat Web portal, allowing intercomparison of atmospheric aerosol data products from different satellite sensors.


Serving NASA’s Research Community

8. Simple Subset Wizard is released

The Goddard Earth Sciences Data and Information Services Center (GES DISC) has teamed with nine of other NASA Earth Observing System Data & Information System (EOSDIS) Data Centers to develop the Simple Subset Wizard (SSW), which is designed to provide a simple, unified user interface for submitting subset requests for data. The SSW uses an agent-based architecture to interface with the diversity of subsetters across EOSDIS.  To date, eight of the data centers offer subsetting services through SSW, with two more soon to come.


The SSW currently has 11 agents to interface with different subsetters, which support the subsetting of 217  EOSDIS data sets.   The SSW provides the capability to subset by either temporal range or spatial region, although not all subsetters have both of these capabilities.   Furthermore, some subsetters will impose limits on the number of files that can be subsetted in a single request.


9. GES DISC staff publish articles, give presentations to diverse groups and meetings, and make users happy

GES DISC staff members – scientists, system administrators, software engineers, Web designers, and many who wear multiple hats – don’t just sit in their offices watching data flow through their computer systems. They are active members of the scientific community, investigating how to better characterize data in the GES DISC archive system, how to make it easier for researchers to find and use these data, and demonstrating the application of these data to vital research endeavors.   Many GES DISC staff members reach out to diverse sectors of the scientific world, through meeting and workshop presentations, published papers, and social media outlets, such as Twitter.   In 2011, presentations were made at meetings of the American Meteorological Society, the European Geophysical Union, the International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, and the Federation of Earth Science Information Partners.   At the American Geophysical Union 2011 Fall Meeting, 28 presentations involved one or more GES DISC people.   Staff members attended workshops on data management, hydrology, tropical convection, monsoon influences in Asia, and educational applications of GES DISC data. Also in 2011, the DISC User Services component ably handled numerous queries from users around the world, highlighted by a welcome assist to a Brazilian reporter looking for imagery of an oil spill off the coast of Brazil.


10.  2011 User Working Group (UWG) meeting:

                On May 10-11, the GES DISC hosted the 2011 meeting of the GES DISC User Working Group (UWG). Each of the NASA data archives has its own UWG, and the intent of this group is to periodically evaluate how, and how well, the data archive is carrying out its designated NASA mission.   In a packed schedule over two days, the UWG was presented with a comprehensive description of numerous GES DISC activities, with the goal of assessing the needs of both the data users and data providers, and providing recommendations for action to NASA Headquarters and the GES DISC management.    Presentations from the meeting, and the meeting minutes (which include the recommendations formulated in the Executive Session) can be found at



Key to the 2011 Top 10 Image:

Top Left:  Follow the NASA GES DISC on Twitter, @nasa_gesdisc and @nasa_giovanni !


Top Row, l-r:   a) Plot of actual atmospheric CO2 measurements from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS). The GES DISC has atmospheric CO2 from AIRS and the Atmospheric CO2 Observations from Space (ACOS) Project.  b) Plot of AIRS atmospheric sulfur dioxide (SO2) concentrations due to the Grimsv√∂tn (Iceland) volcanic eruption. GES DISC participates in the Land Atmosphere Near-real-time Capability for EOS project with data from AIRS and the Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS). c) The GES DISC is an active partner in the Federation of Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP). d) After receiving assistance from the GES DISC User Services in finding a Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) image of an oil spill off the coast of Brazil, reporter Carlos Teixeira sent his appreciation visually.
Middle row, l-r:  a) The SOlar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE) in orbit. The GES DISC archived an updated version of SORCE data this year. b) Plot of near-real-time precipitation data from the NASA Giovanni system of Hurricane Irene rainfall over the Mid-Atlantic States, August 28, 2011.  c) Red dice indicate extended information for climate change education in the Giovanni Online User's Manual, part of the Data-enhanced Investigations for Climate Change Education (DICCE) Project, which utilizes a customized Giovanni data portal.   d)  User interface for the Simple Subset Wizard (SSW).
Bottom row, l-r:   a) The new Giovanni home page was released this year,  including a listing of all the data parameters in the system. b) Top, the GES DISC participates actively in meetings of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). Bottom, the GES DISC hosted a meeting of their User Working Group (UWG) in May. c) The Land Data Assimilation System provides model hydrological data, available from the GES DISC via Mirador and Giovanni. North American data with hourly resolution and global data with 3-hourly resolution are now available. d) Giovanni is a major contributor to research publications, having been used in over 400 peer-review papers. The figure is from “Caribbean hurricanes: case study of interacting easterly and westerly waves” in Theoretical and Applied Climatology by Mark R. Jury of the University of Puerto Rico – Mayaguez, using AIRS data in Giovanni.


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Last updated: Jan 10, 2012 01:38 PM ET