National Computational Infrastructure


Australian Geoscience Data Cube

This is the first time internationally that an entire continent’s geographical and geophysical attributes have been made available to researchers and policy advisors.

The Australian Geoscience Data Cube is the result of the Unlocking the Landsat Archive initiative funded through the Australian Space Research Program, involving a collaboration between Lockheed-Martin, Geoscience Australia (GA), NCI and VPAC.

GA has amassed hundreds of thousands of images of the Australian continent taken by NASA’s LANDSAT satellites over the past three decades. Australia plays a key role in the LANDSAT mission as a data downlink in the southern hemisphere and has 2 receiving stations that have been receiving data from the satellites since 1979. At present the data rate for our national coverage is 80 satellite scenes every 16 days with variations due to impaired satellite function and mission priorities. The total size of the LANDSAT Archive is therefore approximately one petabyte.

The huge potential of this data, however, has remained untapped: traditional computational methods and technology were not up to the task of delving into such a massive dataset. Nor was the collection available in an integrated and calibrated whole.

This has been a global problem, with agencies such as NASA, the US Geological Survey, and the European Space Agency able to put only a small fraction of satellite data into the public domain where it can be used.

The need to analyse the LANDSAT data on a large scale intensified with GA’s major operational commitments to the Murray-Darling Basin vegetation analysis and the National Flood Risk Information Portal projects.

The result is the Australian Geoscience Data Cube – a new paradigm in analysing and providing public access to this crucial dataset.

The prototype Data Cube makes available, for the first time, more than three decades of satellite imagery spanning Australia’s total land area at a resolution of 25 square metres. The 240,000+ images show how Australia’s vegetation, land use, water movements and urban expansion have changed over the past 30 years.

In a digital environment similar to Google Earth, researchers can watch the spread of the 2011 Queensland flood or the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, providing useful information about where to build key flood and fire-prevention infrastructure to help prepare for future natural disasters.

The Data Cube is available on both Raijin and the NCI private cloud: the former allows deep data analysis using several thousand cores; the latter provides an interactive experience for analysis including the ability to visualise the data in-situ.

The Data Cube has been used to map observations of surface water for all of Australia between 1998 and 2012 at 25 metre resolution. The “Water Observations from Space” (WOfS) project was an information source for the National Flood Risk Information Portal. WOfS is accessible at

Australian Geoscience Data Cube Website Data Cube_Australia

Australian Geoscience Data Cube Support

Support for the Australian Geoscience Data Cube is available from the system developers at Geoscience Australia and CSIRO through the NCI Help Desk. Email


The Australian Geoscience Data Cube project is a collaboration between Geoscience Australia, CSIRO and NCI.

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