Thursday, December 15, 2016

Scientists Are Saving Climate Data; This Is Why It Matters

Vegetation cover around the globe using data from the Suomi NPP satellite operated by NASA and NOAA. (Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center) Click to Enlarge.
In recent days, efforts have sprung up to archive climate data on federal sites.  They’ve been spurred by fears that the Trump administration could take a hostile stance toward climate science and that budget cuts could make data less accessible.

While the administration hasn’t said it’s going to erase or curtail access to climate data, appointments to the Trump transition team and the views of his cabinet nominees have set alarms bells ringing.  And with good reason.  The data that NASA, EPA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey and countless other federal agencies collect is essentially the bedrock of scientific enterprise.

That data provides the basis for the forecasts you see on the Weather Channel in the short-term, and aggregated over years and years, it shows how the climate is changing.  In that capacity, it provides crucial clues about what the future may hold as manmade carbon emissions continue to alter the planet.

A number of independent groups of scientists, technologists and journalists are working to get a snapshot of crucial U.S. government datasets and mirror it on private servers should access be curtailed.

“These are products funded by taxpayers who own the intellectual property and should be granted unfettered access,” said Ryan Maue, a meteorologist who works at the private weather firm WeatherBell and is an adjunct scholar at the conservative Cato Institute.  “Whether it is climate, space science or healthcare, Americans should have confidence in the federal scientific infrastructure beginning with sound data practices.”
“It’s hard to underscore the importance and value of NOAA data for the insurance industry,” Steve Bowen, a meteorologist at re-insurance firm Aon Benfield, said.  “There are so many different uses that it is hard to entirely qualify or quantify the significance.”

That includes real-time data during extreme events that can help insurance adjusters address claims and long-term datasets that help calibrate disaster models for setting rates and ensuring those models actually reflect what happens when disaster strikes.

“The robust NOAA data suite is a very critical component to this process, and as the quality of data continues to improve, it is more imperative than ever that it becomes easier to access,” Bowen said.

Other private firms also rely on NOAA data as a key part of their business.  Craig Perko, a programmer at home solar energy firm Solar Wave, said that they regularly use NOAA data to measure how much wind and sun sites would get during various seasons and compare how well systems perform vs. forecasts.

Read more at Scientists Are Saving Climate Data; This Is Why It Matters

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