Data management solutions for the sphere of science

MOSAiC expedition 2020
MOSAiC expedition / Foto: Steffen Graupner, Alfred-Wegener-Institut

On 12 October 2020, the Alfred Wegener Institute's research vessel Polarstern returned from her one-year MOSAiC expedition in the Arctic Ocean. The several hundred scientists now have to evaluate the data they collected under way in order to document the Arctic climate system, a machinery of many intermeshing facets – an endeavor that will take several years to accomplish. In this context it is of special importance that the data can be acquired and stored reliably. For more than twenty years, the web-based data management system DSHIP has been running on various research vessels around the whole world. Now it has again proved successful on the yearlong MOSAiC expedition, which is a long time compared with the normally much shorter research vessel expeditions.

Reliable acquisition of large data volumes with DSHIP

The amount of data that were captured and need to be analyzed now is plain tremendous. The electronic station book minutely documents the five expedition legs with more than 9,000 device uses and over 15,000 single event descriptions, all of which are essential to the subsequent interpretation of the data. This includes, for example, the exact assembly of a device from individual components at the time when it was used or the use of certain cameras or sensors. In addition to this, the system automatically documents the exact position and time as well as relevant environmental conditions for every single event.

Apart from the measurements taken at the individual stations, the data of more than 280 physical sensors - or the quantities derived from them, respectively - were automatically recorded during the entire expedition. That means an average of about 25 million values, in some exceptional cases even up to 647 million values. For evaluation purposes, DSHIP can now be used to relate every single one of these values to other measurements taken under way or at a station. Of course, the scientists could directly observe and analyze their measurements in their laboratories on board the vessel. They could even compare them with older DSHIP archive data and, this way, draw first revealing conclusions on the climate change.

Big data for science

At the end of every expedition leg, the returning scientists took the valuable data back to the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, which lead the international expedition. Not long before the MOSAiC expedition, Werum designed the big data analytics system "AWI Data Pool" for the Alfred Wegener Institute, which is able to flexibly interrelate most diverse data sources with many billions of measured values in complex analyses.

The AWI Data Pool facilitates access to large data quantities and their analysis. Thereby, it makes significant contributions towards speeding up scientific work processes. So, scientists can correlate the data that were collected over the expedition period in different depths of water, from the ice and in the air, for example, to gather new information, identify coherences and better understand interactions of climatic events.

More than just one system

The environmental conditions around the ice floe the Polarstern had docked to were changing all the time. Accordingly, detailed overview pictures of the situation were essential to expedition execution, e.g. to plan routes and to organize the setup of measurement stations on the ice and performance of measurements. The DSHIP MapViewer composed the various data of e.g. satellites, ice radar, weather and ice drift forecasts in one situation picture. As the reception of these data on board the vessel involves different formats and projections, the team in Lüneburg had to make adjustments to the software, especially when the Polarstern was in the Arctic Circle region. With activities like this and a satellite link between Lüneburg and the Polarstern, Werum's team was able to render the MOSAiC expedition quick and flexible support.

Another system by Werum that was used apart from DSHIP was the data management system DMS – on one of the helicopters participating in the expedition. The DMS records data like ice thickness measurements data, for example, and has been running successfully on the Alfred Wegener Institute's research aircrafts Polar 5 and Polar 6 since 2011. The two aircrafts, too, were involved in the MOSAiC expedition and supplied important research data.

Werum Software & Systems is proud that they could make a valuable contribution to the largest polar expedition of all times in various ways and will continue their support when it comes to evaluating the data – to help better understand climatic processes and deduce recommendations for climate protection actions from the data.


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