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Philos Trans A Math Phys Eng Sci. 2009 Mar 13;367(1890):1021-33. doi: 10.1098/rsta.2008.0187.

Computational provenance in hydrologic science: a snow mapping example.

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Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-5131, USA.


Computational provenance--a record of the antecedents and processing history of digital information--is key to properly documenting computer-based scientific research. To support investigations in hydrologic science, we produce the daily fractional snow-covered area from NASA's moderate-resolution imaging spectroradiometer (MODIS). From the MODIS reflectance data in seven wavelengths, we estimate the fraction of each 500 m pixel that snow covers. The daily products have data gaps and errors because of cloud cover and sensor viewing geometry, so we interpolate and smooth to produce our best estimate of the daily snow cover. To manage the data, we have developed the Earth System Science Server (ES3), a software environment for data-intensive Earth science, with unique capabilities for automatically and transparently capturing and managing the provenance of arbitrary computations. Transparent acquisition avoids the scientists having to express their computations in specific languages or schemas in order for provenance to be acquired and maintained. ES3 models provenance as relationships between processes and their input and output files. It is particularly suited to capturing the provenance of an evolving algorithm whose components span multiple languages and execution environments.

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