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Advancing our understanding of the 2015 Indonesian forest fires

How damaging were those 2015 Indonesian forest fires?

Abhinav Thota with Big Red II

Abhinav Thota working with Big Red II supercomputer.

When widespread forest and peatland fires broke out across Indonesia in fall 2015, scientists knew the air pollution would have a significant effect on human health.

To figure out the extent of the damage, though, researchers relied on the innovative high performance computing and storage resources at Indiana University. In a paper published in Scientific Reports in late 2016, lead author Paola Crippa, from Newcastle University, United Kingdom, shows that, in fact, the fires exposed 69 million people to unhealthy air pollution.

How did she come up with that staggering number? She and her fellow researchers from the United Kingdom, United States, Singapore, and Indonesia used a high-resolution air-quality model to simulate the impact of the fires on air pollution. All of the simulations and models were analyzed and are now stored on high performance computing and storage resources at IU, including the supercomputer Big Red II, the Scholarly Data Archive, and Data Capacitor II. But what, exactly, brought together a European researcher and IU’s HPC tools? It turns out that Crippa, who earned her doctorate at IU, is well acquainted with IU’s supercomputing prowess. She already had a strong working relationship with Abhinav Thota, a principal research software engineer in IU Research Technologies, and she knew that he and IU could handle the massive data analysis and storage she needed.

In true Hoosier fashion, Thota was happy to help. “This was a really rewarding project for me,” he said. “Providing Big Red II to the researchers allowed them to do productive, important science with broad implications for society at large.” For his part, Thota is named a co-author on the paper. The original story appeared here.

Abhinav Thota

Abhinav Thota with Big Red II supercomputer.