While governments are traditionally slow to get on board with newer technologies, some leaders are pushing forward more than others. Notably U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, who has urged over the last few months a collaboration between the public and private sectors in order to bring about the integration of big data into the weather and climate industries. On April 21, she announced a project designed to release vast amounts of data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) archives to the public.
In a speech at the American Meteorological Society’s Washington Forum, Pritzker revealed that the department will be working with tech big wigs including Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, IBM, Microsoft Corp., and the Open Cloud Consortium to open up the data that NOAA collects from the public for analysis. Such a project could provide opportunities for economic development as businesses and research groups would have access to the tons of terabytes collected by NOAA each day. (The Department says that NOAA collects around 20 terabytes daily.) Part of Pritzker’s official statement reads:
The Commerce Department’s data collection literally reaches from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun and this announcement is another example of our ongoing commitment to providing a broad foundation for economic growth and opportunity to America’s businesses by transforming the Department’s data capabilities and supporting a data-enabled economy.
Pritzker has made the integration of big data into the climate industry a priority, and has been a vocal proponent of collaborating with the private sector in order to use technology to support the vast amount of data the NOAA has archived. Indeed, in February, she gave a speech in Silicon Valley in which she pointed out that part of the Department’s interest in making large amounts of weather and climate data publicly accessible stems from the fact that weather and climate-based industries in the U.S. “account for roughly one-third of GDP”.
NOAA’s data comes from various sources including Doppler radar systems, weather satellites, buoy networks and stations, tide gauges, real-time weather stations, and ships and aircraft according to the Commerce Department. But only a small percentage of this valuable data is currently easily accessible to the public, and last year NOAA issued a Request for Information to work with private technology companies to explore how to make its data widely available. The scope of this giant project seems daunting considering how much data exists that needs to be disseminated, but with the aforementioned tech giants on board, it has the potential to be a successful endeavor.