Data Services Newsletter

Volume 21 : No 3 : Winter 2019

Dr Tim Ahern Retires- Data Services Director for 30 years

We bid farewell on October 31st to Dr. Tim Ahern, Director of Data Services for more than 30 years, ending the longest tenure in IRIS history. Under Tim’s leadership, IRIS Data Services has fundamentally changed the way that seismologists do their science. Before Tim (BT), way back in the early 1980s, researchers would spend as much as 90% of their time acquiring their data and as little as 10% of their time actually doing science. In those days, there was no central data repository, and data exchange was by magnetic tape and the US Postal Service. Today (30 years AT), those ratios have been completely reversed. Now a researcher can quickly identify the data they want using the tools provided by the IRIS DMC, even if that data resides at one of 21 federated data centers around the world, and with a single web services request, and have terabytes of QC-controlled seismic data delivered directly to their local computer quickly and seamlessly.
Over the past 3 decades, Tim has built the DMC into the world’s largest repository of full-waveform seismic data from both permanent and temporary seismic networks. Widely recognized as a world leader in the management of time-series data in the geosciences, Tim has been a tireless advocate for:

  • archiving of continuous time series data in perpetuity (even though we are funded on 5-year grants!),
  • promoting the establishment of international standards for data and metadata formats to facilitate data exchange, and
  • making all data freely and openly available to any interested user without restrictions.

Today the IRIS DMC, which is operated as part of the NSF-funded SAGE facility, manages an archive of >590 terabytes that is growing at roughly 75 terabytes a year. The DMC, which has a remarkable uptime record of 99.95% over the past 5 years, ingests data in real time from nearly 3700 seismic stations around the world – that’s a data ingestion rate of about 2.4Mb/sec that runs tirelessly 24/7/365. And it is currently shipping more than 750 terabytes/yr to thousands of users in over 150 countries around the world. The Vatican may be the only country without a data requestor.

What a legacy to leave our community as he moves into his golden years! Tim is known for more that just data. He is a tireless traveler who has been to more countries than Henry Kissinger. He is known for his imaginative naming of DMC tools, a virtual barnyard full of names reflecting his wry sense of humor. On behalf of the IRIS consortium and thousands of seismologists in the U.S. and around the world, everyone one of your friends and colleagues say THANK-YOU Tim!

by Jerry Carter (IRIS) and Rick Benson (IRIS Data Management Center)

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