The Earth is a sphere, and it comprises spheres: atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, lithosphere and biosphere - in short, all of the cycles that interact to influence Earth's weather and climate.
Now, to better study how the spheres interact and impact the planet, China launched EarthLab on June 23.
The researchers will begin trials to demonstrate the facility's ability to integrate simulations and observations for more accurate projection and to provide scientific foundation to predict and mitigate such things as natural weather disasters.
"Since the earth system is extremely large and complex, traditional theories and observations are too limited to meet the overall requirements of the scientific research community," said ZHANG He, corresponding author of the study, EarthLab researcher affiliated with the Institute of Atmospheric Physics (IAP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
EarthLab is the first comprehensive virtual earth laboratory in China for simulation the physical climate system, environmental system, ecological system, solid earth system, and space weather system as a whole with a high-performance scientific computing platform.
Fig. 1 Simulation by CAS-ESM 2.0, the key software systems of EarthLab. (Image by ZHANG He)
In partnership with Tsinghua University, IAP began construction of EarthLab in 2018. It is expected to become fully operational and open to universities and research institutes across the world in 2022.
Weather, climate and environmental disasters occur frequently and seriously with grave losses of life and property. Consequently, a global earth system simulation system, as well as high-precision regional environmental simulation system, are urgently needed to better predict climate and environment variability, as well as prevent and mitigate natural disasters more effectively.
Fig. 2 EarthLab Outreach Hall. (Image by ZHU Jiang)
"Our ultimate goal is to predict Earth systems on a vast range of time scale, from seconds to hundreds of years, and of spatial scale, from 10 meters to millions of meters," ZHANG said.
Along with other Earth simulators around the world, the development and construction of EarthLab will advance the understanding of not only the Earth's spheres and their interactions, but also the Earth's past, present and future.
EarthLab's Chinese name is "Huan", which means "a place as vast as the Earth where people live and upon whose land they depend".