The European Union is about to begin building what it calls a “digital twin” of planet Earth that will simulate “with unrivaled precision” our physical planet’s land, seas, atmosphere, and ice caps.
The “Destination Earth” project is capable of modeling the planet in squares one kilometer across, about a sixth of a mile, a far finer scale of detail than previously possible. The best climate model currently is scaled in units of nine kilometers.
The level of detail finally enables researchers to model convection, the vertical rise of heat that helps determine the shape and size of winds and storms. The project also will newly model ocean eddies that transport heat and carbon.
The model will be able to incorporate data about air pollution, crop growth, forest fires, volcanic eruptions, and other factors that affect weather; and can assimilate data from human activities, such as energy use, traffic, and mass migration.
The aim is not only to forecast coming natural disasters earlier than now possible but also to test the impacts of different energy technologies, climate policies, and rates of adoption.
The project is early fruit from the European High-Performance Computing Joint Undertaking, an €8-billion initiative intended to develop machines able to make a billion calculations per second.
A key challenge remains: how to extract useful information from so much raw data. An earlier Japanese experiment found it took months to derive actionable information from just two days’ worth of facts.
TRENDPOST: The ability to model policy outcomes at this level of detail could make politics less a matter of ideological dogma or guesswork and more about testing and managing policy alternatives that can demonstrate the likelihood of being most effective.

Comments are closed.

Skip to content