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Supercomputer to process satellite data

Australia: A new peak supercomputer operated by the National Computing Infrastructure (NCI) will be used to provide scientists with a greater understanding of changes in Australia’s landscape over the past two decades.

The NCI’s recently acquired 1.2 petaflop Fujitsu supercomputer, which is housed at the Australian National University, will be used to process large volumes of remotely-sensed data collected by European Space Agency Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites over the past 20 years.

The SAR satellites obtain radar images from which maps of changes in the Earth’s surface, or digital elevation, are generated using interferometric (InSAR) methods, generally with centimetre or better precision. This allows researchers to measure deformation in the landscape over a period of months to years.

The SAR data for the research has been made available as part of the AuScope Australian Geophysical Observing System (AGOS) project and has been funded by the Australian Government through its Education Investment Fund (EIF) to monitor the physical state of the Australian continent.

The group leader for Geoscience Australia’s Earth Monitoring and Hazards program, Gary Johnston, said that although the data has been available for many years, it is only through the computer processing power of the supercomputer and a specialised high-speed data-intensive cloud system offered by the NCI, together with AGOS making the data accessible, that it is possible to undertake a study on the proposed scale.

“The cooperative venture will support Geoscience Australia’s natural hazards monitoring activities as well as build the capability to measure crustal deformation to support an improved understanding of the impacts of groundwater extraction, geological storage of CO2 and resource exploration and mining activities,” Johnston said.

“The analysis will contribute also to the development of a dynamic geodetic coordinate system for Australia and support applications which require high quality positioning information such as mapping, construction, precision agriculture and Earth sciences,” he said.

Source: GA