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White House, Google, Amazon Launch Big Data Tool to Help with Climate Resilience Planning

A variety of data can already be explored on the new Partnership for Resilience & Preparedness (PREP) web portal, such as these large scale hurricane tracks (1848-present). | Image credit: PREP with data from the NOAA

Despite international efforts to curb climate change, communities and companies alike need to prepare for the impacts of a changing climate. With this in mind, The White House has launched a new public-private collaboration to improve the availability and usability of data and information for climate resilience. Companies including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google, Microsoft and IBM’s The Weather Company are working alongside NGOs and four U.S. Federal agencies to execute the project.

Called the Partnership for Resilience and Preparedness (PREP), the collaboration aims to “empower a data-driven approach to building climate resilience” by:

  • Engaging communities and facilitating ongoing conversations among producers and users of data, information, and tools to support climate resilience; 
  • Identifying and reducing the barriers to access, contribute, and use data and information products for climate resilience; and  
  • Developing an open-source platform to enhance access to and usability of climate-relevant data and information.

A beta version of the open-source platform is already available on the PREP website, released as a first step in supporting communities’ climate resilience needs. The World Resources Institute (WRI) managed the development of the beta platform, which was built on the open-source Resource Watch system.

In the coming year, the PREP platform will enter a pilot phase to identify the climate-relevant data and information needs of a wide range of users. Communities will be able to select and visualize an initial group of datasets from and other relevant data, and eventually will be able to create customizable dashboards. PREP is planning to work in-depth with at least a dozen communities by the end of 2017 to test the platform and address user needs.

PREP will continue to be jointly coordinated by the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and WRI. WRI will coordinate the non-governmental actions for the partnership, while USGCRP will coordinate the efforts of the Department of the Interior (DOI), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Among other contributions, companies and other participating organizations are helping accomplish PREP’s goals as follows:

  • AWS will make new datasets available on the AWS Cloud at no cost and will provide hosting services for datasets that PREP deems are priorities for climate resilience;
  • Google will host 1PB of climate-relevant datasets for free by the end of 2016 in Google BigQuery and Google Earth Engine, help PREP organize priority data, and allow PREP users to run up to 1TB of queries per month for free;
  • Microsoft will help PREP test and demonstrate new tools, services and business models that enable smart urban infrastructure and environmental management, as well as run workshops, develop cloud-based solutions, contribute to research on best practices, and provide cloud-computing resources through the Azure for Research program;
  • The Weather Company, an IBM Business, will provide free and open access to relevant datasets including a new historical dataset from its Weather Underground network;
  • Esri will contribute data-web services and work with PREP partners to make climate-projection data interactively explorable through open formats, open source apps, and Story Map tools;
  • Vizzuality will continue to lead the design and development of the underlying infrastructure for the PREP platform; and
  • CARTO’s open-source platform infrastructure powers aspects of the PREP platform’s data analysis and visualization capabilities, and the company will continue to provide in-kind infrastructure and engineering support for the platform’s full development.

Descartes Labs, Earth Knowledge, the Federation of Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP), Forum One, Future Earth, the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), and a group of organizations in Sonoma County, Calif. are also involved in PREP, contributing products, services and expertise in-kind.

The Administration also joined 13 other nations and organizations in the release of a Joint Declaration on Harnessing the Data Revolution for Climate Resilience, to further enhance access to actionable information for climate resilience. Amazon Web Services, IBM, Google, Microsoft, WRI, Future Earth, GEO, World Bank, and the Economic Commission for Latin America and Carribbean are among the organizations to release the declaration alongside the governments of Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, the Marshall Islands, Mexico, Peru, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

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