The Climate Data Initiative – Putting the US ahead of climate change

By Louise Bilham, May 28, 2014


"Obama brings on the Climate Action Plan" , Courtesy :

Last year President Barack Obama unveiled the Climate Action Plan, which aims to cut carbon pollution, prepare the United States for the impact of climate change and lead international efforts to combat climate change across the globe.

Following on from this, the Obama Administration has launched the Climate Data Initiative. The aim of the Climate Data Initiative is to make Federal Government climate data information easily accessible to the public. The Administration has already begun working with scientists and technology companies such as Google to give US communities the tools and information they need to better understand the effects of climate change and take action now to prevent further harm.


What steps is the Obama Administration taking?

With help from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA, the Obama Administration is in the process of launching a website,, which will contain Government climate change data.The data will focus initially on rising sea levels and coastal flooding, but will eventually broaden to include information on a range of other climate related issues.

Currently, only a very small proportion of all the data that NOAA holds is made accessible to the public. The White House, NASA and NOAA are looking to change this, by working with entrepreneurs, business owners, universities and community leaders to look at exactly what data driven tools are needed and how they can get the best out of that data.


How are private sector companies supporting the Climate Data Initiative?

Businesses across the US, including big name tech companies in the Silicon Valley area such as Google, Intel and Microsoft Research have recognized the importance of tackling climate change. These businesses and many others have joined forces with the Obama Administration and scientists to contribute towards the Climate Data Initiative.

Together, they are funding and creating maps, apps, simulations and visuals to demonstrate the anticipated effects of heat waves, drought, rising sea levels and the effects on infrastructure across America. This information will be broken down into local communities. More advanced tools are being created to track water consumption and online portals are also being created where climate change experts can share information and ideas.

Specific examples of how the private sector is getting involved in the Climate Data Initiative include the following:

googleGoogle are donating one thousand terabytes of cloud storage, which has the ability to host huge amounts of climate change data, supporting the creation of high resolution global maps, satellite observations and other data tools, with a view to making the effects of climate change more easily visible to the public. Google are also donating 50 million hours of processing time from Google Earth and are working with universities to provide drought mapping across America and water consumption mapping across the globe.

Intel2Intel are sponsoring ‘Hackathons’ in San Jose, New Orleans and Chesapeake Bay. The ‘Hackathons’ are challenging engineering and computer science students to develop software and apps that will make the best use of climate resilience data focusing on their local areas. Environmental activists, journalists and scientists are also being encouraged to join in the ‘Hackathons’ as it will be a great way for people to work together and share knowledge and ideas.

microsoftMicrosoft Research are assigning forty climate scientists to the Climate Data Initiative, who will have free access to cloud computing resources for a year and will be carrying out research and analysis on the climate data.


How can I make use of these data tools?

The website is still in development but already hosts a range of useful data, maps and tools uploaded. The link to the website is and it includes the following pages;

  • Coastal flooding
  • Updates
  • Data
  • Tools
  • Maps
  • Challenges
  • Resources
  • Feedback

When selecting any of these menu options you are presented with information, updates, highlights and interactive tools where you can search for a specific area. For example, specific climate data information and maps can be viewed for Santa Clara and San Francisco, which is great to try and establish local risks. The website also has links to view information on other web pages such as the ‘NOAA, National Climate Data Centre’ web page.

Another useful tool is Geoplatform.Gov where data and mapping information on hundreds of thousands of US bridges, roads, rail road tunnels, canals and river gauges can be viewed.

Having this information so freely available, will empower US citizens to prepare for the impending effects of climate change and take responsibility to create an America that is resilient to those effects.


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