Blizzards, floods, droughts, and heat waves from January to July 2010 brought into sharp focus a primary expected manifestation of global climate change: significant alteration of Earth's hydrological cycle. Increased numbers of extreme events, and longer-term and larger-scale precipitation pattern shifts that will stress both natural ecosystems and human societal norms, are anticipated as consequences of this alteration.
For 25 years, NASA has orbited satellite sensors providing data on Earth's interconnected energy and hydrologic systems; new missions for this purpose are scheduled to launch in coming years, including the Global Precipitation Measurement mission in 2013. These missions, and complementary studies, have produced large and steadily increasing volumes of data, either archived at NASA data centers or held by investigators, particularly those in the NASA Energy and Water Cycle Study (NEWS) program. This increasing volume has induced a data management dilemma: Investigators encounter an increasingly complex process to locate, access, and utilize such data, especially when seeking to combine heterogeneous data sets for innovative research.