We’ve been investing heavily in Space Exploration, trying to reach other planets, trying to research other planets, their ecosystem, what they contain, what happened to them, and how it happened to them. So I guess it is about time we start investing in figuring out the Earth as well. There is so much that we don’t know about our own planet. This is exactly why China is launching EarthLab in Beijing.
The opening ceremony was held on June 23rd and since then researchers have begun trials to demonstrate the new facility’s abilities. The facility will enable researchers to make and integrate simulations and observations to accurately predict project outcomes. The EarthLab is also capable of providing a foundation to predict and mitigate natural weather disasters. The lab began construction back in 2018 and is expected to become fully operational by 2022.
An introduction to the facility was published by the research team in the Journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences. According to He Zhang, the paper’s corresponding author and a researcher at EarthLab, “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”.
He Zhang is also affiliated with the Institute of Atmospheric Physics or IAP at the Chinese Academy of Sciences or CAS. He further explained that “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”. EarthLab will also open itself to universities and research institutes across the world.
Zhang talked about the overall goal of the facility, he said that “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. Along with other earth simulators around the world, the development and construction of EarthLab will advance not only the understanding of the Earth’s spheres and their interactions, and Earth’s past, present, and future, but also the progress of computational mathematics, high-performance computing, and technology, and other broader fields”.
Being able to predict when something like a typhoon or a tsunami could happen would alert authorities well in time and save hundreds of lives in the process. We don’t know how accurate the claims of the facility are but only time can tell. The EarthLab will also become a science outreach base for children and students to learn more about Earth sciences.
All in all, I think it is about time we started to give more attention to the Earth and not to other planets that we can’t even inhabit.