White House Releases Climate Data Set, Challenges Developers to Use It

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The first data set focuses on coastal flooding and sea level rise.

The Obama administration opened up a trove of climate change data on Wednesday as part of its larger drive to open up government data.

The data housed at Data.gov/climate will be contributed by NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Defense Department and other agencies, according to a White House blog post. The first batch of data focuses on coastal flooding and sea level rises.

NOAA and NASA also announced an “innovation challenge” on Wednesday for people using public data to build tools that educate the public about the dangers of flooding and rising water levels in their communities.

“Every citizen will be affected by climate change -- and all of us must work together to make our communities stronger and more resilient to its impacts,” the White House said in a blog post authored by Counselor to the President John Podesta and Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren.

“By taking the enormous data sets regularly collected by NASA, NOAA, and other agencies and applying the ingenuity, creativity, and expertise of technologists and entrepreneurs, the Climate Data Initiative will help create easy-to-use tools for regional planners, farmers, hospitals and businesses across the country,” the authors said.

Wednesday’s announcement also included commitments from technology companies, including Esri, which will partner with 12 cities to create free “maps and apps” to help local governments plan for climate change impacts. Esri is a popular digital mapping vendor for governments and businesses. Google also agreed to donate one petabyte of cloud storage for climate data and 50 million hours of high-performance computing with the Google Earth Engine platform.

The White House published an Open Data Policy in 2013 focused on giving the public, nonprofits and private-sector companies access to raw government-gathered data that they can use to build applications and tools that will aid public information, turn a profit or both.

The consulting firm McKinsey and Co. has estimated open data from the U.S. government and elsewhere could add more than $3 trillion annually to the global economy if it was fully exploited.

“We’ve already seen the powerful relationship government data and private sector innovation can produce -- whether it’s tracking a hurricane’s path or mapping the reach of rising sea levels,” Senate Homeland Security Chairman Tom Carper said in a statement. “Making sure this data is accessible, while adhering to security standards, will make our government more inclusive, provide a valuable return on the taxpayer dollars invested in these programs and mitigation efforts, and can even save lives and property.”

In addition to climate data, the government information trove Data.gov hosts 20 other data communities focused on health, education, energy, finance and other topics.

Nextgov is profiling companies and nonprofits built off open government data. Check out the profiles here

(Image via Anna Morgan/Shutterstock.com)