While Elon Musk may be trying to initiate efforts to colonize Mars, scientists on Earth are attempting to build an accurate digital twin of the planet to simulate in the future. This twin is being created under the European Union’s efforts to become climate neutral by 2050. Bringing together climate scientists and computer scientists under their ambitious Green Deal and DigitalStrategy programs, this simulation is supposed to give an accurate representation of the future based on our current present.
The main aim of this feat of geological design is to support policy-makers in making responsible decisions to better prepare for extreme events. Starting mid-2021, the initiative titled Destination Earth is expected to run up to ten years. During this period efforts will be made to create a highly accurate digital twin of the Earth to track climate changes and extreme events as faultlessly as possible. Observational data will continuously be fed into the digital twin to modify the model, making it mouldable and accurate for prediction of future trajectories.
Observational data will continuously be fed into the digital twin to modify the model, making it mouldable and accurate for prediction of future trajectories.
What makes this digital twin unique is that the observational data input is not only limited to the traditional tracking of weather and climate changes but, researchers also want to account for relevant human activities in the model. As we live in an era where human beings have a significant geological impact on the planet, the new Earth system can virtually only achieve accuracy if accounted for this influence along with other processes in the physical Earth system.
Thinking about the future from the viewpoint of the present, this digital Earth system is intended to serve as an information system that develops and tests scenarios that display more sustainability, thereby better informing current policies. In order to successfully run this program, a new interdisciplinary field must be ventured into i.e. the intersection between earth science and computational sciences.
This digital Earth system is intended to serve as an information system that develops and tests scenarios that display more sustainability, thereby better informing current policies.
Though posed with difficulties, the foundation of such a field can be found in the practice of current weather and climate models. Recognising the setbacks of our macro climate models on a micro-level, the digital twin will bring both these scales together to enable high-resolution simulations that will be able to depict the complex processes of the entire Earth system. This is where modern computational science lends support.
In order to achieve a detailed level of accuracy, the code must adapt to new technologies that have a much enhanced computing power. To achieve this processing power, researchers emphasized on the need to co-design both computing hardware and relevant algorithms simultaneously. Scientists on this project also believe that this project would greatly benefit from artificial intelligence (AI) as it would speed up the simulation and enable the twin the geological intelligence in replicating physical processes more accurately.
Though still a strategy paper at the moment, with this as a starting point and the evolving advancements in next nature technologies, perhaps we could soon be designing future simulations for other areas to test the efficiency of current policies.