Both Google and Microsoft have signed up to add their considerable cloud computing resources to tracking climate change for the US government. The information will form part of the Data.gov initiative that is the home for all of the open data that the US government provides. It all forms part of President Obama’s Climate Data Initiative which aims to better prepare the US for natural disasters which cost the US $110 billion (R1.2 trillion) in damages
Data.gov gets climate data from the US Department of Defense, NASA and the US Geological Society but most of the time it forms an incomprehensible spreadsheet type data set that most users would find difficult to get any value out of. Google is donating 50 million hours of the Google Earth Engine‘s computing power to provide real-time drought mapping and monitoring across the US in conjunction with a team of researchers who will be able to get their data into the public eye faster than ever before. Of course all of the satellite observations, digital elevation data, and climate/weather model datasets inputs and all of the results need somewhere to be stored, so Google is throwing in a petabyte (1 000 gigabytes) of storage along as well because it can.
Microsoft, for its part, has developed a service that can draw on the mountains of historical weather data in the Azure cloud to create models of climate change as well as helping with weather forecasting for severe events like flooding. Microsoft Research is also launching the Climate Data award program, which is a grant of up to 180,000 hours of cloud-computing time and 20 terabytes of cloud storage that will be awarded to 40 scientists or decision makers selected from proposals submitted by June 15 2014.
Hopefully the South African government is taking note of these kinds of initiatives with a view on implimenting some of them here at home. Perhaps a data model that could lower the obscene amount of road deaths over the Easter period could be a first port of call.