SSEC Globe Logo Space Science and Engineering Center (SSEC)

Grant enhances center’s computing power

Contact: Ray Garcia, 608-262-8439,

Madison, WI, November 5, 2004—UW–Madison’s Space Science and Engineering Center (SSEC) has received a grant of nearly half a million dollars to develop a high performance computing system. According to Allen Huang, a senior scientist in SSEC’s Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) and the project lead, the grant will afford SSEC a massive boost in computing power. The grant is particularly important as SSEC increases its involvement with hyperspectral remote sensing instrumentation and analysis.

Hyperspectral refers to a measurement capability that samples the electromagnetic spectrum in many narrow wavelength bands over a broad and continuous wavelength range. Hyperspectral measurements of the Earth-atmosphere system allow scientists to more precisely determine atmospheric profiles of moisture and temperature. These measurements, made from orbiting weather satellites, and assimilated into advanced weather prediction models, promise to improve the accuracy of long-range weather forecasts and to provide advance warning of severe weather events. To handle the large amount of information collected by hyperspectral weather satellites, and to generate useful predictions in a timely fashion, requires huge amounts of computing power.

The U.S. Office of Naval Research, through its Multidisciplinary Research Program of the University Research Initiative (MURI), is funding the effort which builds on SSEC’s long history of creating visualization and analysis software and creating and adapting hardware for remote sensing applications. The Navy’s grant will support SSEC efforts in the multiagency GIFTS and MURI programs.

GIFTS is the Geosynchronous Imaging Fourier Transform Spectrometer, a research initiative currently under review which could far exceed the capability of GOES, the current U.S. satellite that continuously presents weather imagery for television broadcasts and National Weather Service forecasts. The GIFTS measurement concept comprises an imaging spectrometer placed in geostationary orbit measuring the Earth’s thermal emission in over one thousand narrow wavelength bands. With a 4 km footprint, the spatial resolution is also very high for an atmospheric profiling instrument, and the measurement strategy provides for high temporal resolution, around a quarter of a million square kilometers of area every few minutes.

Approximately 895 gigabytes of GIFTS data would be sent to Earth a day, much more than currently received from any other single atmospheric instrument. SSEC has the task of developing algorithms to process and analyze the enormous amounts of data to prepare the way for hyperspectral instruments such as GIFTS. To service this requirement Ray Garcia, a CIMSS software engineer, will head a team of SSEC technical computing experts who will implement a high performance computing system optimized for high data volumes and rapid throughput.

The GIFTS instrument is considered a remote sensing advancement on the order of the spin-scan camera, which made possible viewing the world’s weather from space in 1967, and the first atmospheric profiling instrument in geostationary orbit in 1980. Both of these instruments were conceived at SSEC. GIFTS is a collaboration of the U.S. Navy, NASA, NOAA, the University of Utah, and the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

—James Davies and Terri Gregory


Direct comments, suggestions and inquiries to Terri Gregory, SSEC’s Public Information Coordinator. For other SSEC stories, visit the SSEC media page.