By Simone Ulmer, Contributing writer, ETH Zurich
Information system for decision-making
The digital twin of the Earth is intended to be an information system that develops and tests scenarios that show more sustainable development and thus better inform policies. “If you are planning a two-meter high dike in The Netherlands, for example, I can run through the data in my digital twin and check whether the dike will in all likelihood still protect against expected extreme events in 2050,” says Peter Bauer, deputy director for Research at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) and co-initiator of Destination Earth. The digital twin will also be used for strategic planning of fresh water and food supplies or wind farms and solar plants.
The driving forces behind Destination Earth are the ECMWF, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT). Together with other scientists, Bauer is driving the climate science and meteorological aspects of the Earth’s digital twin, but they also rely on the know-how of computer scientists from ETH Zurich and the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre (CSCS), namely ETH professors Torsten Hoefler, from the Institute for High-Performance Computing Systems, and Thomas Schulthess, Director of CSCS.
In order to take this big step in the digital revolution, Bauer emphasizes the need for earth sciences to be married to the computer sciences. In a recent publication in Nature Computational Science, the team of researchers from the earth and computer sciences discusses which concrete measures they would like to use to advance this “digital revolution of the earth-system sciences,” where they see the challenges and what possible solutions can be found.
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