Geoscience Australia is developing the world-leading Digital Earth Australia (DEA) platform to provide satellite data and images of Australia for research, industry and government use. Spatial information of this kind provides an in-depth understanding of changes in the environment. The data, once prepared and analysed using NCI’s high-performance computing, provides a wealth of information to the Australian community. In addition, NCI’s data facilities store a large portion of the satellite imagery accessible through DEA.

The resulting platform will create an easier way for farmers, land managers, researchers and government to explore changes in the Australian landscape, from water usage to erosion, bushfire patterns and river flows. By making analysis-ready data available to the community, DEA reduces the cost and time involved in dealing with the complex and varied volumes of satellite data.

Our contribution to DEA also comes in the form of an NCI-produced piece of satellite data management software. GSKY, an open-source geospatial data server, makes it possible to quickly and efficiently search through large, disparate sets of geospatial data, and bring them together into a coherent whole. This provides yet another simplification to the time-consuming workflow of searching for appropriate datasets.

Digital Earth Australia showcases the power of big data and how computational methods can be used to increase our knowledge of the local environment. Issues such as food security, climate change and urban development will impact on many facets of Australian life. Data platforms such as DEA give us a strong foundation on which to base our responses to these future opportunities and challenges.

This research highlight was originally published in the 2017-2018 NCI Annual Report.