Switching on the European Digital Twin of the Earth

Switching on the European Digital Twin of the Earth

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

The European Commission has activated the initial Destination Earth (DestinE) system building two digital twins of the Earth.

The € 315m DestinE project is developing a highly accurate digital twin of the Earth using Europe’s High-performance computers (EuroHPC), including the LUMI supercomputer in Kajaani, Finland, with an official launch today.

The digital twin will be able to simulate the effects of climate change and extreme weather events for Europe to be better prepared to respond to major natural disasters, adapt to climate change and assess the potential socioeconomic and policy impacts of such events.

DestinE is using a new set of AI modelling capabilities and represents a key component of the European strategy for data by consolidating access to valuable sources of data across Europe. It is expected to continuously evolve, extending operations and developing further components. By 2030, DestinE should complete a full digital replica of the Earth.

The main features of the initial system include the DestinE Core Service Platform, serving users access to its services, tools, and applications as well as two DestinE Digital Twins – the Digital Twin on Climate Change Adaptation and the Weather-Induced Extremes Digital Twin, offering data at high resolution supporting the analysis and testing of scenarios.

A Data Lake providing seamless access to DestinE Digital Twins data and a large number of other data sources, including Copernicus, the EU’s Earth Observation component of the EU’s space programme.

DestinE was officially launched in 2022 by the European Commission, in partnership with the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT).

The launch marks the end of the first phase and the start of the second phase, both funded with over €150m each. The third phase and its funding are subject to the agreement of the final Digital Europe programme 2025-2027, which is currently being drafted.

“The launch of the initial Destination Earth (DestinE) is a true game changer in our fight against climate change. DestinE will provide us with a highly accurate twin of the Earth. It means that we can observe environmental challenges which can help us predict future scenarios – like we have never done before. This first phase shows how much we can achieve when Europe puts together its scientific excellence and its massive supercomputing power. Today, the future is literally at our fingertips,” said Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age.

Most of the current climate information sources, including global and regional climate projections, lack flexibility to adapt the outputs to the users’ requirements. The large model output volumes prevent storing the full information content, so new data management systems need to be developed.

This lead to a streaming approach. The streaming of the full model output, with all the variables available, at native spatial resolution and the highest frequency possible, gives users immediate access (on the HPC) to the complete set of climate data generated by the models.

DestinE also produces data in a standardised format across different models and model components (so-called Generic State Vector) and a unified grid equal-area hierarchical HealPix grid, optimised for hierarchical data exploitation as is required in high-resolution visualisation, local data retrieval and AI/ML training. This is already fast gaining traction in the community for efficiently working with very high resolution data.



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