Completed project: Polar Grid - Cyberinfrastructure for Polar Science

Primary UITS contact: Richard Knepper, David Hancock

Completed: September 12, 2011

Description: The Polar Grid project will help scientists better understand the current and future state of polar ice sheets by creating a computer grid spanning from the North to the South Pole. Polar Grid consists of ruggedized laptops and clusters deployed in the field in the polar regions, and two large-scale clusters for detailed data analysis in the US: a 17-teraFLOPS cluster installed at IU, and a 5-teraFLOPS cluster at partner institution Elizabeth City State University. The clusters will be made highly accessible through a science gateway, using Web 2.0 and portal approaches designed to make high-performance computers easier to use. IU will also leverage its involvement in the TeraGrid to support the Polar Grid project.

Milestones and status:

The Polar Grid project began in August 2007.

  • The field/base camp purchasing project started late 2007.
  • The Polar Grid Cyberinfrastructure team, including participants from the University of Kansas and Elizabeth City State University, met January 23-24, 2008, to plan for the Greenland expedition in May 2008.
  • Final hardware purchases for the Greenland expedition were completed in March 2008, and the equipment was shipped to Schenectady, NY, for shipment to Greenland the first week of April 2008.
  • Polar Grid researchers are on site in Ilulissat, Greenland, taking radar measurements and doing preliminary processing of field data (as of the first week of July 2008).
  • Polar Grid researchers are taking measurements at the NEEM station on the Greenlandic ice starting July 27, 2008.
  • A team from IU has returned from a mission to Ilulissat to assist the University of Kansas team with computation of radar data from aerial missions over the Greenland Ice Sheet.
  • University of Kansas researchers have asked a team member from IU to accompany them to the NEEM station on the Greenland Ice Sheet. The team member is on site at NEEM as of August 1, 2008. Information about NEEM is available at
  • Preparations for the Antarctic expedition for the Polar Grid project are underway, and IU is acquiring equipment to ship to Antarctica in late September 2008.
  • The 2008-2009 Antarctic Expedition is expected to return to the University of Kansas in early March 2009. Equipment for the 2009 Greenland Expedition is being assembled, and the Greenland Expedition will ship out for Ilulissat and Kulusuk on March 24.
  • The Ilulissat/Kulusuk expedition has returned, having completed six flights over the Jakobshavn glacier, two over the Kangerlussuaq glacier, two over the Helheim glacier, one over the Godthab glacier, and a cooperative mission for the US Coast Guard. The Greenland 2009 expedition produced over 6 TB of radar data. Preparations are beginning for the Antarctica 2009 expedition, which starts in November 2009 and will be prefaced by a number of flights from Chile over the Antarctic ice sheets in early November.
  • Field work in Chile and Antarctica has been completed as of January 2010. Researchers made 10-hour overflights from Punta Arenas, Chile over the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, collecting 31 TB of radar data. Researchers then proceed to Byrd Camp, a new deep-field site built near the remains of Byrd Station (originally established in 1957) on the West Antarctic Sheet. Researchers retrieved over 40 TB of radar data from the Byrd Camp missions.
  • The Polar Grid computing clusters for both Indiana University and Elizabeth City State University were delivered in February 2010 and have been installed and accepted.
  • Work is currently being done on the code to allow it to run efficiently on the new, larger clusters. As the data sets being collected grow, so does the need for this extra computational processing.
  • The Greenland 2010 expedition returned in May. This trip was based out of Thule Air Force Base. This was a collaboration with NASA's Operation Ice Bridge. The Polar Grid project collected over 50 TB of data from 28 flights over the glaciers and sea ice around Greenland. Processing of this data with Polar Grid computing resources will begin immediately.
  • In August 2010, the Polar Grid computing cluster for ECSU was delivered and installed in a newly remodeled server room. This 64 node, 512 core cluster was matched with a user node and 14 terabytes of usable storage and configured for use by the researchers at CERSER (Center of Excellence in Remote Sensing Education and Research).
  • In October 2010, the Polar Grid team, including 1 staff member from IU, began an expedition based out of Punta Arenas, Chile to support data collection and analysis as part of NASA's Operation IceBridge.
  • The Fall 2010 field season completed in November of 2010, having collected 20 TB of radar data from flights over Antarctica. Transfer of the data to IU's Data Capacitor and processing of the radar data will happen in January 2011.
  • Planning for the Operation Ice Bridge 2011 field season has started, with over 250 TB of radar data planned to be captured from flights originating in Kangerlussuaq and Thule, Greenland.
  • Fall field season data has been transferred to IU for processing and archiving and KU students are studying the Fall field season Antarctic data products.
  • The 2011 NASA Operation Ice Bridge field season has started as of March 12 in Thule, Greenland. Some science flights have been completed, although harsh weather conditions have delayed part of the science flight schedule. Later flights are scheduled for Kangerlussuaq, Greenland.
  • The 2011 Twin Otter flights have commenced from Illulissat, with further flights based out of Kulusuk, Kangerlussuaq, and Nuuk.
  • In May 2011, Operation Ice Bridge P3 and CReSIS Twin Otter flights have completed for the Spring 2011 field season. Data and infrastructure equipment is on its way back from Greenland. The flights conducted collected over 65 TB of radar data.
  • Preparation and packing for the 2011 Fall field season has been completed at IU. IU field engineers are preparing for missions originating in Punta Arenas, Chile and McMurdo Station, Antarctica. The Chile field missions will occur over 4 weeks. Antarctica field missions will occur over 8 weeks, returning in January 2012.

Benefits: Polar Grid will transform US capabilities in ice sheet research, making it possible to collect, examine, and analyze data all during the course of a single expedition. This represents a dramatic change from the current method of study, in which expeditions occur during the summer months, data is brought back to the US for analysis, and a new expedition takes place the following year.

In addition to impacting polar science, Polar Grid builds upon PI Geoffrey Fox's existing efforts to help minority-serving institutions enhance their research by gaining greater access to cyberinfrastructure. The Polar Grid project will provide Elizabeth City State University, a historically black university in North Carolina, with a high-performance computing cluster and will give its researchers access to IU's cluster, using a high-speed network connection.

Faculty and student researchers will participate in field data collection and in Polar Grid implementation of a base camp 64-core cluster, allowing near real-time analysis of radar data by the polar field teams. Students trained and educated on Polar Grid will also participate in internships and enhance the entry of a diverse workforce into important science.

Project team:

  • Principal investigator: Geoffrey C. Fox, Director, Community Grids Lab; Professor of Informatics, Computer Science, and Physics, Indiana University
  • Co-PIs:
    • Marlon Pierce, Assistant Director, Community Grids Lab, Indiana University
    • Craig A. Stewart, Associate Dean and Associate Vice President of Research Technologies, Chief Operating Officer, Pervasive Technology Labs at Indiana University
    • Linda B. Hayden, Director, Center of Excellence in Remote Sensing Education and Research, Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science, Elizabeth City State University
    • Malcolm LeCompte, Associate Dean and Director of Research, Elizabeth City State University
  • Senior personnel:
    • Beth Plale
    • Donald McMullen
    • Matt Link
    • David Hancock
    • Dennis Gannon

This is document avoq in the Knowledge Base.
Last modified on 2014-10-24 00:00:00.

  • Fill out this form to submit your issue to the UITS Support Center.
  • Please note that you must be affiliated with Indiana University to receive support.
  • All fields are required.

Please provide your IU email address. If you currently have a problem receiving email at your IU account, enter an alternate email address.

  • Fill out this form to submit your comment to the IU Knowledge Base.
  • If you are affiliated with Indiana University and need help with a computing problem, please use the I need help with a computing problem section above, or contact your campus Support Center.

Please provide your IU email address. If you currently have a problem receiving email at your IU account, enter an alternate email address.