High-resolution environmental modelling has long been a challenge for Australian researchers, and benefits hugely from access to NCI’s data and compute infrastructure. It requires the ability to manage and access increasingly large-scale, high-resolution and diverse data sources combined with a research platform suitable for data-intensive analysis.

Professor Albert van Dijk from The Australian National University has been using NCI for many years to drive his research into environmental processes such as rainfall, land cover, bushfires and water flows. He led a group of international collaborators in developing a model capable of tracking all of the water on the Earth’s land surface, measuring the quantity of water present in rivers and catchments. Being able to run this new world-class high-resolution water availability model at a global scale relies on the combined computational performance and highly optimised National Reference Data Collections at NCI.

Professor van Dijk says, “We want to help bring about more sustainable water management practices around the world. The things we can achieve with NCI’s strong data and compute platform are truly world leading. The expertise and effort we put into making best use of this valuable high-performance infrastructure opens so many new research possibilities for us.”

The major innovation of this model is the incorporation of additional satellite data to the model’s workings. That data — satellite readings easily accessible from within NCI’s systems — enables much more reliable estimates of water storage and use by wetlands and irrigation than anything previously possible.

These water features have previously been difficult to accurately model, in large part because of the way they change dynamically over the course of days to years. Now, water managers around the world can use this modelling data to better understand their water resources and improve management practices.

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