February 9, 1996 Contact: Robert Irion (408) 459-2495; firstname.lastname@example.org
REINAS: A REAL-TIME ENVIRONMENTAL INFORMATION NETWORK FOR THE MONTEREY BAY REGION
* For release in conjunction with the session on Ocean Science and Engineering at the 1996 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The session runs from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. EST on Friday, February 9, in room 321 of the Baltimore Convention Center.
BALTIMORE, MD--Monterey Bay, one of the most beautiful notches in the California coast, is under constant surveillance. The spies are weather sensors, marine instruments, video cameras, and other robotic eyes set up in the bay and around its rim. The formidable task of Patrick Mantey and his coworkers is to collect information from that array and display it graphically for meteorologists, oceanographers, and other interested researchers--all in real time.
That's the essence of REINAS (Real-Time Environmental Information Network and Analysis System), a $4.7 million project funded by the Office of Naval Research. Now in the fourth year of its five-year grant, REINAS is beginning to fulfill its charge of bringing environmental science into a more intimate relationship with state-of-the-art computer and network systems and visualization technology.
Mantey, the Jack Baskin Professor of Computer Engineering at the University of California, Santa Cruz, will describe REINAS in a talk during a session on "Ocean Science and Engineering" at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
"Our aim is to support real-time forecasting in meteorology and real-time applications in oceanography," Mantey says. "To do that, we must answer this question: What is our best estimate of the state of the environment right now? We see the potential to turn REINAS into an operational laboratory--a real-time 3-D geographic information system that presents data to any user over the Internet. Not every scientist has been able to take advantage of those new communications tools, so for many of them this is a different way of doing things."
UC Santa Cruz is the lead institution on the project, which involves contributions from several faculty members in computer sciences and engineering, visiting researchers, and a cadre of graduate students. Collaborating institutions are the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) and the Naval Postgraduate School of Monterey, with which UCSC recently signed a formal agreement for partnerships in research, education, and public service.
Work to date on REINAS falls into three main categories:
* Data acquisition. The team has set up Internet links with a dozen sites in and around the bay, ranging from ridgetops to the coastline and to ships off shore. The stations include standard meteorological instruments that collect data a few times each minute on temperature, winds, humidity, barometric pressure, precipitation, and solar radiation. A few stations have radar systems to measure ocean currents and vertical wind profiles; ocean sensors gauge water temperatures and wave heights. Researchers are adding images from weather satellites to this mix.
* Data management. Developing an underlying system to cope with continuous large streams of data, and to archive them in readily accessible ways, has proven a vigorous hardware and software challenge. When all data sources come on-line, the finished network may have to handle the equivalent of 300,000 typewritten pages of new data each day, in many different formats.
* Visualization. To make the data useful for researchers sitting at their terminals, the REINAS team has created several striking graphics tools. For instance, "Spray" is a program in which the user injects smart particles, or "sparts," into a graphic to visualize a 3-D data set in a particular way. For example, ribbons of color might illuminate contours of barometric pressure over the bay. "CSpray" is a means via which two users at distant sites can collaborate on looking at different aspects of the same data set at the same time. A more modest tool for displaying simple meteorological data on 2-D plots is available to any user over the World Wide Web. This access to REINAS data is popular with surfers and other recreational users who want to know current ocean conditions. Another successful public service is the SlugVideo Home Page, a wireless digital video feed from atop the ten-story Dream Inn in Santa Cruz that provides updated views of the coast via the World Wide Web.
"A major challenge in visualization is to pull together the diverse sets of data and put them into pictures so that a researcher can get a synthesized view," Mantey says. "Computer graphics can present pretty pictures, but they must be carefully designed so that the user gets a true understanding of the physical phenomena."
Just as important, he notes, are the "metadata" inherent in REINAS data bases--"data about the data," explaining how the information was gathered. "That eliminates the need for scientists to have access to each other's notebooks," Mantey says. "It's a systematic way of having the data make sense to everyone, and it prevents much duplication of effort in processing the raw data."
Beyond the scientific applications of forecasting and modeling the weather, Mantey envisions that REINAS eventually will prove useful for operational tasks such as guiding rescue fleets, responding to oil spills, and improving immediate storm warnings under rapidly changing conditions. Nor should REINAS be limited to Monterey Bay, he adds: "The REINAS architecture can work anywhere. We could build a super-REINAS out of individual networks and expand our coverage to a much larger region, such as the entire coast."
Editor's notes: You may explore REINAS World Wide Web sites at these addresses: General--http://csl.cse.ucsc.edu/reinas.html; visualization--http://www.cse.ucsc.edu/research/slvg/envis.html; SlugVideo--http://sapphire.cse.ucsc.edu/SlugVideo. Addresses of the primary REINAS institutions: UC Santa Cruz--http://www.ucsc.edu; MBARI--http://www.mbari.org; Naval Postgraduate School-- http://www.pao.nps.navy.mil