New Data Tool Helps Cities Take Climate Action – Next City

New Data Tool Helps Cities Take Climate Action

A data set shows the projected number of days over 95 F from 2041 to 2070. (Credit: PREP)

With both open data and evidence of the impacts of climate change proliferating, the White House announced a new platform last week that will allow local governments, companies and investors easier access to climate data from NASA, NOAA and other federal sources. The Partnership for Resilience and Preparedness (PREP), a collaboration between government, international and private entities, aims to help improve resilience planning through better information.

“Understanding the threats posed by climate change and extreme weather are critical to protecting people, homes, businesses and livelihoods. Data must be part of the solution,” said Janet Ranganathan, vice president for science and research at World Resources Institute, a PREP partner.

“PREP will leverage open data and open-source computing to help planners build resilience in their communities by connecting those making decisions with the data they need, in a format they can use,” she said in a statement. Local governments often struggle to pull together this data, even where it’s available, because it’s outdated, spread out across different agencies, or too technical to use.

Federal agencies, by contrast, have a vast trove of data frequently updated via satellite or another source, but don’t have a direct link to the planners and local governments that could make use of it. Governments are also frequently unaware of what type of information local city planners need, so useful data gets discarded.

PREP will pull dynamic climate data, reports and projections into one accessible, open-source platform. Federal agencies like NASA, NOAA and the Department of the Interior will provide the data and modeling. Private entities like Amazon Web Services and Google Earth Engine are providing additional data and technological support, and a host of other public and private groups are helping to create the platform and coordinate between users.

Users of the platform can toggle on and off data overlays, ranging from the local up to the global. There are data sets that visualize social vulnerabilities to environmental hazards in each state, ones that show impervious surface coverage across the country, and others tracking climate trends around the globe.

The platform is also launching with four main collaborators: Sonoma County, California; the Washington State Climate Impacts Group; Porto Alegre, Brazil; and the U.S. National Climate Assessment Team. Each has used the platform to create databases showing the projected impacts of climate change in certain regions.

Sonoma County, for instance, “is in the midst of experiencing climate change, and that means higher temperatures, more extreme rainfall events and prolonged droughts,” said Efren Carrillo, chairman of the Sonoma County Water Agency, in a statement.

“PREP has helped our community work together and integrate climate risk data into one central online tool that is available to our whole community,” he said. “Before PREP, this data had no single home; instead it was fragmented amongst our government agencies and community organizations.”

The current platform is a beta version. Future versions will allow users to create their own customized climate risk dashboards.

Jen Kinney is a freelance writer and documentary photographer. Her work has also appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, High Country News online, and the Anchorage Press. She is currently a student of radio production at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies. See her work at jakinney.com.

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Tags: big dataclimate change