CWSLab: Access to further collaboration on climate

CWSLab: Access to further collaboration on climate
June 20, 2016 Karen Mecoles

“The CWSLab aims to give scientists more time to investigate science questions and explore new methods to present a better understanding of our weather and climate systems”

— Tim Pugh, Bureau of Meteorology

The Climate and Weather Science Laboratory (CWSLab) is a virtual laboratory led by the Bureau of Meteorology in close collaboration with the CSIRO. The CWSLab provides an integrated platform of tools and resources for researchers and government agencies to simulate, analyse and predict climate and weather phenomena.

Climate and weather has an enormous impact on people’s day to-day lives, the food they eat, the energy they use, the homes they live in and the work and travel they do. Improvement to climate and weather services relies on collaborative work done by the Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO and Australian universities. The CWSLab contributes to this effort as it facilitates community-wide access to climate and weather model simulations and data analysis capabilities. The CWSLab is a virtual laboratory for the scientific study of the Earth’s weather and climate, utilising high performance computing and storage systems.

The virtual laboratory provides an integrated platform of services, tools and data for researchers and government agencies to simulate, analyse and predict climate and weather phenomena at the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) at the Australian National University. Its implementation to the infrastructure at NCI connects to services such as the NCI compute cloud, the data collections storage and the Australian Community Climate Earth-System Simulator (ACCESS) collection. In November 2012 the proposal for the CWSLab was submitted to Nectar.

The project, led by the Bureau of Meteorology, was developed in close collaboration with CSIRO, NCI, and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science (ARCCSS). In February 2013, the CWSLab was granted federal government funding through Nectar with additional funding available in December 2014. CWSLab project managers, Dr Aurel Moise and Tim Pugh from the Bureau of Meteorology, said the virtual laboratory was targeted at Australian scientists and students represented in the five universities of ARCCSS, as well as scientists from CSIRO and the Bureau.

The virtual laboratory is a service available to Australian university researchers and students. Mr Pugh said the virtual laboratory aims to make the work of the scientists from the different institutions more effective and less time consuming.

“In late 2013 users began to utilise the virtual laboratory, which has improved their access to computing and storage resources, facilitated the sharing of experiments and results, and reduced the time it takes to conduct scientific research studies,” he said. “The laboratory has also reduced the technical barriers to using state-of-the-art tools and improved collaboration and contributions to ACCESS.”

The CWSLab is important in enabling use of ACCESS, and enables researchers to use data generated by similar groups from around the world more efficiently. In addition, it draws researchers into the NCI environment and helps focus the national community on the infrastructure provided at NCI. Therefore, it acts like a catalyst to accelerate new and innovative research across data, Australian modelling, high performance computing and high performance ‘big data’. “Prior to the laboratory’s development, when users wanted to develop climate and weather simulations they would spend several months compiling the code, validating the software, writing the workflows and preparing the data to perform the simulations,” Mr Pugh said. “The duplication of effort and lost time was immense.”

The laboratory has access to an enormous library of models and experiments of the latest and most recent weather and climate simulations. This allows students and scientists to quickly prepare and run the simulations, store the outputs, and analyse the data for scientific studies and publications. “This improves the traceability and reproducibility of experiments and makes it easier for new scientists to get started,” Mr Pugh said. Through the integration and enhancements of existing community software, such as ACCESS, the CWSLab produces a cohesive facility for climate and weather process studies in areas such as weather prediction and extreme events, atmosphere ocean- land-ice interactions, climate variability and change, greenhouse gases, water cycles, and carbon cycles. “When the scientific discovery and investigation process can be accelerated, it will reduce the cost to the organisation and deliver a more timely solution for the benefit of the Australian government, industries and public,” Mr Pugh said. “We are learning more and learning more quickly, and are able to find cost savings in the work we are conducting.”

The CWSLab will not only be used for predicting Australia’s climate trends, it will also be used on an international stage. As a facility for the analysis of climate change simulations, the laboratory will assist in the assessments of future Australian climate change and contribute to the Sixth Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) during 2017-18. “Every seven years the IPCC, supported by the UN, produces the latest update of what is known globally on climate change,” Dr Aurel Moise, Senior Research Scientist at the Bureau of Meteorology said. “The latest data is distributed across the world and scientists, including those in the Bureau, CSIRO and ARCCSS, analyse the simulation and publish the results in peer reviewed literature. “The IPCC then brings in a large group of expert authors to assess and evaluate those results and write-up their assessment report.” Looking forward, Dr Moise said that the recently announced successful funding extension for the CWSLab will allow the Bureau to lead the extension of the laboratory’s work for the next 12 months. “It was clearly indicated by Nectar that they are not seeking any new proposals for new virtual laboratories. Their interest is in extending the current virtual laboratories to expand user uptake,” he said. “And that is exactly what we want to do with CWSLab. “We want to focus on training and approaching various organisations and universities to train users how to incorporate their own methods into this community virtual laboratory, so that it continues to expand.”

For more information about CWSLab, go to