White House Unveils Data Sharing Platform for Climate Change Research


A public-private partnership, including Microsoft, Google and Amazon Web Services, aims to open up climate-related data.

A group of federal agencies is partnering with Amazon Web Services and Google on a new site designed to be a hub for climate-related data sets. 

The site, released Thursday in beta form, is supposed to help public and private groups share information they've gathered on climate change and resilience, according to a White House press release. It's the first project introduced by the newly debuted Partnership For Resilience and Preparedness: a coalition of federal entities including the Interior Department, NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as tech giants including Amazon, Google, IBM and Microsoft. 

PREP emerges from the 2014 Climate Data Initiative, which intended to pool federal climate data sources, according to the White House.  

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The new data platform will be part of a pilot program during which the administration will try to identify what data users are interested in. Users can currently explore specific data sets about topics including coastal flood hazards, precipitation and transit lines from climate.data.gov and other sources. Eventually, the site should let users build customizable dashboards visualizing that data, according to the White House. 

PREP will be testing out the platform and plans to work with "at least a dozen communities by the end of 2017" to gauge their data needs.

The administration, along with 13 other countries, also signed a pledge to embrace "common technical standards" and "open climate data standards," and to support open-source platforms by prioritizing "easy and timely access" to data.  

“The world urgently needs to collect and harness data" to examine "trends and likelihoods in severe weather events as well as hydrologic, oceanic, and ecological impacts under a changing climate, and how they affect communities, cities, subnational jurisdictions, nations, and regions," the Joint Declaration on Harnessing the Data Revolution for Climate Resilience said. That declaration was signed by Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, the Marshall Islands, Mexico, Peru, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as Amazon Web Services, Google, IBM, Microsoft and the World Bank, among other groups. 

The co-signers are trying to ensure "communities and governments at all levels" can access data in a way that can help with the "management of climate variability and change.”

Within PREP, agencies and companies are donating data sets and services. The Interior Department, for instance, plans to contribute parts of its Federal Geospatial Platform, which includes APIs that could help users search for specific data sets. NASA is working on ways to better catalog and visualize NASA data. AWS said it would make data sets available on its cloud for free, including data about global elevation. Google committed to hosting one petabyte of data for free by the end of 2016.