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Google’s participation in the Climate Data Initiative  

We are supportive of the White House Climate Data Initiative. We seek to help unlock the value of public datasets that are collected and created by the U.S. government on past, present, and future conditions of the Earth’s environment.

We’re committed to helping communities become more resilient to the effects of climate change.  A key challenge has been to manage the enormous scale of the data and the processing required to extract information that is timely, relevant, accurate and easy to use.  To address this challenge, today we’re announcing a significant donation of Google cloud computing and storage resources as well as scientific collaborations with institutions at the cutting-edge of climate resilience. Our goal is to make information such as flooding, storm surges, water consumption and drought as accessible to the public as using Google Maps to get driving directions.

Specifically, we will donate:

We will also work with partners committed to leveraging these resources to develop unprecedented data products and applications for climate resilience, such as:

Challenge: We invite the world to bring their data together and create a shared and open high-resolution global digital elevation model (DEM), accessible and instantly computable by anyone. We invite federal, state and local agencies, governments around the world, and scientific, research and commercial organizations to make freely available the DEM datasets they already hold, and commit to collecting and contributing new data as necessary to complete the Global Hi-Res DEM.

Producing this Global Hi-Res DEM is an ambitious undertaking that will require sourcing existing datasets from many providers, as well as collecting new data that does not even exist yet.  We commit to hosting this data, making it open and freely available, and offering cloud computing resources (noted earlier), as well as working with researchers, practitioners, and developers to make it useful for climate and disaster modeling.  Our cloud storage donation will accommodate a Global DEM at 1 meter resolution. We look forward to collaborating with new and existing institutions and innovators dedicated to this goal.

Partner Commitments - Flash Drought Prediction

12 Month Standardized Precipitation Evaporation Index for February 2014.  Red = Dry; Blue = Wet.  Source: The Desert Research Institute, University of Idaho and University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The Desert Research Institute, University of Idaho and University of Nebraska-Lincoln have made the following partnership commitment to produce drought monitoring products:

“Desert Research Institute (DRI) and partners commit to partnering with Google to apply historical plus near real time gridded weather data sets housed on Google Earth Engine’s environmental cloud computing platform to produce state-of-the-art drought monitoring products for all of the continental United States.  These products will be produced in near real time and made freely available to the public.  Near real time drought monitoring at multiple time scales of weeks, months, and annual are critical to tracking both ‘flash’ and extended droughts, for example, the recent flash drought in 2012 in the Midwest U.S., and current extended drought over the Western U.S. including California.”

The Western States Water Council has made the following statement of support:

“The Western States Water Council applauds Google’s commitment to this outstanding example of a public private partnership, which will undoubtedly lead to further innovation and applications of science to solve real world water problems,” said WSWC Chairman Phil Ward, Director of the Oregon Department of Water Resources.

Partner Commitments - High Resolution Evapotranspiration

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Kearney Nebraska Landsat Evapotranspiration in EE.jpg

[Top] True color composite for Kearney, Nebraska (center). [Bottom] Calculated evapotranspiration showing high ET (green colors) from agricultural lands and low ET from urban areas (beiges and light blues). Produced by Google Earth Engine EEFlux for Landsat 8 image taken August 20, 2013. Source: The Desert Research Institute, University of Nebraska-Lincoln and University of Idaho.

The Central Platte Natural Resources District (CPNRD) in Grand Island, Nebraska, manages over one million acres of irrigated land and nearly 30,000 active groundwater wells along the Platte River overlying portions of the Ogallala (High Plains) aquifer. Approximately one quarter of the irrigated land in the US overlies the aquifer. CPNRD works with farmers to manage use of surface water from the Platte and ground water to create a sustainable water use system, using evapotranspiration (ET) maps to calibrate ground water models and to produce estimates of water balances and ground-water depletion.

Mr. Duane Woodward of the CPNRD, has provided us with the following statement regarding their commitment and desire to use EEFlux data for water management:

“We look forward to the free and open access to water consumption information that will be afforded by the Google Earth Engine EEFlux application.  That application places water consumption information directly into the hands of farmers, ranchers and water managers to improve day-to-day management and conservation of ground-water and surface-water resources.”

The Desert Research Institute, University of Idaho and University of Nebraska-Lincoln have made the following partnership commitment:

“The EEFlux (Earth Engine Evapotranspiration Flux) consortium (University of Idaho, Desert Research Institute (DRI) and University of Nebraska) commits, in collaboration with Google, to produce, on Earth Engine, 30 m resolution maps of evapotranspiration (ET) based on the Landsat thermal-imaging-era archive dating to 1984 for all of the US and globe.  The ET maps will be freely processed by and made freely available to the public for use in field scale monitoring of actual amounts of water consumption by agriculture and natural vegetation.  ET information is an essential input to discussions on transfer of water consumption among agriculture, cities, competing user communities and the environment.  ET is also an essential input to improving climate change forecasting simulations and carbon sequestration monitoring.  ET can identify drought in days rather than in months as with standard drought indexes.”

Partner Commitments - High Resolution Global Terrain Model

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[Top] An overview of the Luganville region in Vanuatu showing high resolution aerial imagery draped over the LiDAR DEM and bathymetry in Google Earth. [Middle, Bottom] Luganville Vanuatu. The LiDAR Digital Surface Model (DSM) and bathymetry have been inundated with a 1 in 10 year seasonal storm surge event today (dark blue), and with predicted sea level rise in 2090 (light blue). The sea level rise value used was an IPPC "mid-range" emission scenario with an predicted sea level rise of 0.62m in 2090. The Highest Astronomical Tide (HAT) value is 1.35m and the 1 in 10yr seasonal storm surge value (which includes HAT) was 1.5m. Source: The Australian Government and the Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information.

The Australian Government and the Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information have made the following statements on the importance of a high-resolution global terrain model:

“Building resilience to coastal risks associated with climate change requires a sound understanding of the potential vulnerability and impacts and associated with sea level rise, storm surges and coastal inundation.  For low-lying populated coastal areas, high resolution elevation data improves inundation modelling, and the estimation of risk to infrastructure and communities. In addition, shallow-water bathymetric data can better inform assessments of how sea level rise may affect inundation through changing wave directions and energy. To effectively map the risks and potential impacts of sea level rise, storm surges and other flood inundation a data resolution of 1-2m needs to be achieved with a sub-metre vertical accuracy.”

“The Australian Government, in partnership with the Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information (CRCSI), Geoscience Australia, industry and local jurisdictions, has been making significant inroads into managing coastal risk both in Australia and Pacific Island nations. Building on major investments in the development of a high resolution LiDAR DEM covering Australia’s populated coast, the Australian Government has turned its attention to the South-West Pacific.

Vanuatu is one country that has benefited from the high resolution topographic and bathymetric data capture. Their key national plan for addressing climate change identified coastal flooding as a serious issue that already threatens human lives, settlements and infrastructure. This risk will only increase with rising sea levels. At only a few metres above sea level the main commercial centres of Port Vila and Luganville are highly vulnerable to flooding from tropical cyclones and storms.

Google Maps Engine has provided a platform for the people of Vanuatu to analyse and visualise the potential future inundation associated with sea level rise and storm surge, and to better understand the impacts on their communities. Platforms such as Google Maps Engine and Google Earth Engine are providing unprecedented opportunities to extend information and training beyond government agencies, and deliver awareness and understanding to local communities and schools.”

Guy Schumann of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Paul Bates of the University of Bristol have made the following statements in support of the development of a high-resolution global terrain model:

 “Accurate DEMs from airborne lidar have transformed flood modelling and forecasting. At global scales, however, the best-available DEMs are too crude for simulating flooding accurately — and its related risks to public health, biogeochemical cycling and wetland ecology. Current global DEMs cannot resolve the detail of terrain features that control flooding. More-effective flood-hazard maps could be created by obtaining high-resolution stereo images from satellites and DEMs from LiDAR, combined with the latest advances in flood modelling using supercomputers. Such a global-scale DEM would also have an enormous impact on finance (such as flood re-insurance), humanitarian services (such as disaster relief) and scientific research. We would like to see industry, governments and humanitarian agencies come together to support the development of a global DEM with higher resolution and accuracy.”

Creative Commons, a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools, has made the following partnership commitment:

 “We encourage data providers to submit their data into the public domain using a standardized, globally recognizable legal tool such as the CC0 Public Domain Dedication so that the data may be re-used for any purpose by anyone without any copyright and related restrictions or obligation. In order to maximize reuse of the data to achieve the most far-reaching results with the greatest impact, we strongly encourage data re-users to provide credit to the contributing data providers. 

Creative Commons is committed to helping data providers to Google's global DEM repository in choosing the right licenses that ensures maximum reuse with minimum hurdles, and in getting the marking right so the rights and obligations of re-users are conveyed unambiguously.”