Google, Microsoft, Feds Launch Climate Data Tools

by | Mar 20, 2014

Sea Level Rise Planning ToolGoogle, Microsoft and other companies joined the White House yesterday to launch a suite of climate data projects designed to serve businesses, governments and the public.

The Climate Data Initiative calls on the private sector to build tools using government datasets, as a number of well-known tech companies are starting to do.

In addition, more than 100 datasets, web services and tools related to coastal flooding and sea level rise are now publicly available at Over time, the site will expand to cover other climate-related topics, such as human health, energy infrastructure, and the food supply.

At the same time, the USGS, the departments of Defense and Homeland Security, and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency have released mapping information about hundreds of thousands of the nation’s infrastructure units and geographical features, including bridges, roads, railroad tunnels, canals, and river gauges.

And NOAA is asking industry, non-profits and researchers to comment on how the agency can tap into its vast stores of unpublished data.

The Climate Data Initiative is part of President Obama’s climate plan outlined last June.

Businesses, hospitals, city planners and resource managers will all benefit from the data and tools, the White House said. Information on could help builders avoid areas prone to future sea-level rise, and water utility operators to identify potential threats to the local water supply.

And, as the New York Times points out, “President Obama wants Americans to see how climate change could deluge or destroy their own backyards — and to make it as easy as opening a web-based app.”

Businesses involved in the Climate Data Initiative include:

  • Google: Has committed to provide one petabyte (1,000 terabytes) of cloud storage to house satellite observations, digital elevation data, and climate and weather model datasets drawn from government open data. Google has also formed partnerships with the Desert Research Institute, the University of Idaho, and the University of Nebraska to model water consumption from vegetation around the world, and provide near real-time drought mapping and monitoring for the entire continental US.
  • Microsoft Research: Will grant 12 months of free cloud computing to 40 climate change scientists and decision-makers. Microsoft also launched a free resource, Adaptable FetchClimate, for retrieving past and present observations and for future climate-prediction information.
  • Intel Corporation: Sponsoring three regional partnerships including “hackathon” events focused on climate resilience in the Chesapeake Bay, New Orleans, and San Jose.
  • Esri: Will develop and publish a series of free and open “maps and apps” developed in partnership with 12 cities to address issues including droughts, heat waves, or flooding. Esri has also announced an online portal for sharing climate-related resources.
  • Climate Central: Will release a free web tool providing local projections, maps, and assessments of exposure to sea level rise and coastal flooding tabulated for every coastal zip code, municipality, county, and state in the U.S., along with planning, legislative and other geographic districts. Exposure assessments will cover more than 100 demographic, economic, infrastructure and environmental variables.

Other organizations involved in the effort include the World Bank, MIT, Antioch University New England, CartoDB, the Rockefeller Foundation, Code for America, annual hackathon EcoHack, the Alliance for Water Efficiency and NASA. 

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