The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which oversees the National Weather Service, with support from NASA, is looking for some talented coders to help model the Earth’s geomagnetic field.
Energy transmitted from the sun through solar-winds “blow” into the Earth’s magnetic field, creating geomagnetic storms. These storms produce variations in the planet’s magnetic fields, which could in turn create problems for systems that use the Earth’s natural magnetic field as a pointing reference. As an example, a ship or jet traveling to “north” may be traveling in a slightly different direction on different days because of those variations. NOAA is looking for help from data experts and coders to help figure out these changes caused by solar storms, and is offering $30,000in prizes to the winners that figure it out the best.
The “disturbance-storm-time” index is a measure of the severity of a geomagnetic storm; it is known as “Dst” for short. To understand the dynamics of the Earth’s magnetosphere, the Dst index is used to drive geomagnetic disturbance models such as NOAA and National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI)’s High Definition Geomagnetic Model. The Dst index is important to a variety of groups: power grid operators, satellite operators, academic institutions, government agencies, and many others that rely on what’s what with the Earth’s magnetosphere rely on it to analyze the strength and duration of geomagnetic storms.
Using the DrivenData platform, NOAA is hosting a contest challenge in which participants can use real-time solar-wind data feeds from NOAA’s DSCOVR and NASA’s ACE satellites to help forecast the Dst. The goal is to have improved models that can provide more advanced warning of geomagnetic storms and reduce errors in magnetic navigation systems.
The contest, which closes at midnight on the night of February 12, will award 4 prizes to those that code the best models. First prize wins $15,000, second prize wins $8,000, third prize wins $5,000, and fourth prize wins $2,000. Complete contest details, along with the current leaderboard showing the most accurate models submitted to date, can be found on this DrivenData webpage.
DrivenData hosts a variety of online challenges where data scientists from around the world can compete to solve problems for cash prizes. Most online challenges usually last 2-3 month and offer varies prizes. Other competitions include using data to understand the wind speeds of tropical storms (of which there’s $13,000 in prizes) or using data to understand whether or not hate speech is found in online memes. Another competition is looking for data experts to help predict whether people will get H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines based on their backgrounds, opinions, and health behaviors. All of the challenges can be viewed at drivendata.org.