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Putting Kajaani on the map of world-leading climate research: Destination Earth launch event at the LUMI data center

The launch event of the first version of the Destination Earth system on 10 June 2024 drew an enthusiastic crowd to the LUMI data center in Kajaani. From European Commission Vice-President Margrethe Vestager to Finland’s Minister of Employment Arto Satonen, everyone was impressed by the initiative’s achievements and the contribution that LUMI and CSC have made to its success thus far.

The Destination Earth initiative aims to develop a highly accurate digital model of the Earth. This has the potential to revolutionize climate research and policy-making by making it possible to simulate and analyze Earth systems in real time with high accuracy. The models will be interactive and allow for ‘what if’ questions related to the impact that different courses of action would have on the planet—something very useful for not only research but also evidence-based policy-making!

The simulations facilitated by the digital twins require solving complex mathematical equations and processing vast amounts of data, including real-time data from various sources, such as satellites and weather stations. Only supercomputers with immense computational power can efficiently handle these tasks. Therefore, Destination Earth would not be possible without the support of LUMI and other EuroHPC supercomputers. LUMI has indeed provided most of the computing capacity for the first phase of the project.

From left to right: Arto Satonen, Margrethe Vestager and Kimmo Koski

Image: From left to right: Finland’s Minister of Employment Arto Satonen, European Commission Vice-President Margrethe Vestager and CSC’s Managing Director Kimmo Koski.

Destination Earth at the service of the green and digital twin transition

Many of the high-level guests of the event praised the contribution that Destination Earth is making to both Europe’s climate targets and technological leadership. For example, European Commission Vice-President Margrethe Vestager observed that the use of such advanced technology for climate research is a prime example of the green and digital twin transition where both climate action and technological development are taken to the next level.

Finland’s Minister of Employment Arto Satonen, on the other hand, pointed out LUMI’s leading position in green computing, recalling the need for supercomputers to also ensure that their own operation is as energy-efficient and sustainable as possible.

Indeed, LUMI has been a remarkably green supercomputer starting from the construction phase, when a decision was made to place LUMI in the premises of an old paper mill. The use of a re-purposed building made it possible to reduce the need for new construction materials to the extent that the carbon footprint of the construction project was 80 % smaller than it would have been in the case of a completely new building. LUMI continues to operate in an exceptionally sustainable way, using entirely carbon-neutral electricity, recycling waste heat to the local district heating network and making use of the cool climate of Kajaani to reduce the need to use energy for cooling down the device.

CSC’s Managing Director Kimmo Koski celebrated LUMI’s small carbon footprint but was particularly happy about its carbon handprint, i.e., its positive impact on climate and environment. This comes through initiatives like Destination Earth, which uses LUMI’s computing power to advance impactful climate research and policy-making.

Data and talent at the heart of Destination Earth

The importance of data for Destination Earth was brought up several times. The experts of the three organisations implementing Destination Earth – ECMWF, EUMETSAT and ESA – were particularly happy that the enormous computing capacity available for this initiative makes it possible to use all the abundant data available, which in turn makes it possible to create digital models of higher resolution than ever. They were also happy with the potential of EuroHPC supercomputers to facilitate the use of AI to make the models interactive, which will support research and policy-making in a novel way.

It was also underlined that none of this would be possible without the enthusiastic user community. To nurture the community and attract new talent to Europe, it is important that scientists continue to have access to state-of-the-art HPC and AI infrastructures and high-quality research data in the future as well.

Authors: Sanna Kostiainen and Satu Tuomikorpi, CSC – IT Center for Science