Aug 26, 2017

Giovanni: The Bridge Between Data and Science

(By Zhong Liu and James Acker) Using satellite remote sensing data sets can be a daunting task. Giovanni, a Web-based tool, facilitates access, visualization, and exploration for many of NASA’s Earth science data sets.

Estimated Article Reading Time: 2 min.

ince the satellite era began, researchers and others have used data collected from Earth-observing satellites, but using satellite-based data sets remains challenging. Putting data into a common format, handling large volumes of data, choosing the right analysis software, and interpreting the results require a significant investment in computer resources, labor, and training.

A new infrastructure system has been designed to assist a wide range of users around the world with data access and evaluation, as well as with scientific exploration and discovery. This system, the Geospatial Interactive Online Visualization and Analysis Infrastructure (Giovanni), was developed by the NASA Goddard Earth Sciences (GES) Data and Information Services Center (DISC).

The paramount goal of Giovanni is to provide scientists and the public with a simplified way to access, evaluate, and explore NASA satellite data sets. Here we describe the latest capabilities of Giovanni with examples, and we discuss potential future plans for this innovative system.

Challenges of Using Satellite Data

The need for large-scale observations is increasing as global observations become more important for understanding global change processes.

Over Earth’s vast oceans and remote continents, traditional large-scale, ground-based programs to observe the atmosphere, ocean, and land surface can be difficult and costly to deploy and maintain and are therefore impractical for providing adequate long-term observational data for research and applications. However, the need for large-scale observations is increasing as global observations become substantially more important for understanding global change processes like temperature and precipitation shifts.

Satellite instruments can overcome surface observation limitations by making repeated, synoptic observations of the Earth’s land surface, ocean, and atmosphere. For example, NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS) project is a global observation campaign consisting of a coordinated series of polar-orbiting satellites intended for long-term global observations, enabling improved understanding of Earth’s geophysical systems.

However, many researchers find it challenging to access and use NASA data. Heterogeneous data formats, complex data structures, large-volume data storage, special programming requirements, diverse analytical software options, and other factors often require a significant investment in time and resources, especially for novices.

By facilitating data access and evaluation, as well as promoting open access to create a level playing field for nonfunded scientists, NASA data can be more readily used for scientific discovery and societal benefits. Giovanni was developed to advance this goal. With Giovanni’s assistance, researchers around the world have published more than 1,300 peer-reviewed papers in a wide range of Earth science disciplines and other areas.

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