This research highlight was originally published in NCI's 2021-2022 Annual Report.

Australian climate researchers are drawing on the rich data collections available at NCI to improve our understanding of droughts and floods.

A central collection is the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts’ (ECMWF) Reanalysis version 5 (ERA5), a comprehensive reanalysis of weather models and observational data from ground and satellite sensors, covering the period from 1950 to the present. ERA5 includes detailed estimations of air pressure, windspeed, temperature and other climate variables, providing a high-resolution multi-faceted overview of the Earth’s weather and climate over the last 70 years.

To unlock ERA5’s full potential for climate research, local access adjacent to high-performance computing and data analysis systems is required. With supercomputing infrastructure and robust data services, NCI is the ideal location for Australian researchers to collaborate on and analyse ERA5 data.

Dr Chiara Holgate from the Research School of Earth Sciences at The Australian National University is using ERA5 to investigate how different weather systems contribute to extreme rainfall and the role this may play in breaking droughts. The work builds on previous studies she undertook at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology on the link between drought occurrence in Eastern Australia and the extent of ocean evaporation taking place in the Tasman Sea.

“ERA5 is a great resource for researchers to access reanalysis data from a source that is quality-controlled and easily available,” she says. “I use it as the basis for analysis I undertake on Gadi on how the transport of moisture in the atmosphere varies according to major synoptic systems, across both time and space.”

Weather station instruments on a grassy, sunny hillside. Hills and a blue sky are in the distance.

Dr Holgate considers the combination of centrally located data, analysis environments and high-performance computing available at NCI critical to her research. “If NCI did not host ERA5, it would be very hard for me to undertake this research. Having everything available in a central location is key, as it means I do not have to copy over significant quantities of data. Further, NCI provides data analysis environments, such as Jupyter notebooks in the Pangeo environment, where I can easily bring in data as needed from other sources, including on cyclone tracking and rainfall observations.”

As a national hub for data and compute-intensive research, NCI increases the productivity of the research community by making available robust, high-performance analysis tools with access to some of Australia’s most significant data collections.