The White House unleashes Big Data to fight Climate Change

medium_3280739522The White House is reaching out to budding data scientists to help in its fight against climate change. Yesterday, the Obama administration gave an announcement about its new Climate Data Initiative – a program that’s bidding to use the gargantuan amount of climate change-related data its accumulated to build tools that local governments and city planners can use to protect their environments. There really is a whole ton of data too, with organizations like NASA, DOD, NOAA and USGS all contributing. Meanwhile companies like Google and Intel are also doing their bit, donating their own data, software and technology for the cause.

The Climate Data Initiative was announced over a live stream from the White House, where presidential advisor John Podesta made a plea for technology innovators to make use of the data and technology to build tools that communities can use. To make things easier, all of the data – which includes things like sea, atmospheric, planetary and arctic data – has been lumped together on one website,

“The Obama Administration is today issuing a call to America’s top private-sector innovators to leverage open government data resources and other datasets to build tools that will make America’s communities more resilient to climate change and to forge cross-sector partnerships to make those tools as useful as possible,” explains a White House fact sheet.

Now obviously, developers are going to need some kind of incentive to work on this, which is why the White House has opened a number of competitions, such as the “Coastal Flooding Innovation Challenge”, which calls on innovators to “help people understand their exposure to coastal hazards and their increased vulnerability due to population increase and sea level rise.”

The technology industry has thrown its weight behind the project, with Google donating storage resources and cloud computing tools, and Intel organizing three hackathons around the data. In addition, data visualization and maps startup CartoDB has announced a grant program in support of nonprofits that can use the data to create beneficial tools.


The development of data-based visualization and planning tools won’t just help city planners and administrators to prepare for climate change, but could also help to galvanize ordinary people in these efforts too. Data visualization in particular is extremely beneficial – the impact of climate change really hits home when you can see it happen, and especially if you see it happen within your own community.

1st image credit: Billy Wilson Photography via photopin cc; 2nd image credit: davesag via photopin cc