Google Provides Cloud Computing Resources for Climate Change Research

Google is helping the U.S. government accomplish research on climate change by donating 50 million hours of cloud computing time as well as other resources.

extreme weather

Google is donating 50 million hours of cloud computing time to the U.S. government to assist in a recently announced Climate Data Initiative that aims to help organizations and communities use public data to look at climate conditions in their areas.

"Up until now, it's been difficult for the public to locate detailed, timely data relevant to climate-related risks such as extreme weather events," Tyler Erickson, developer advocate for the Google Earth Engine, wrote in a March 19 post on the Google Lat Long Blog. "To help address this challenge, Google is donating cloud computing storage and access to other tools to support institutions that are driving climate change resilience."

The efforts are being made as part of the Climate Data Initiative announced by the White House earlier this month, wrote Erickson.

To help in those efforts, Google is providing 50 million hours of high-performance computing on the Google Earth Engine geospatial analysis platform, according to Erickson. "Earth Engine brings together the world's satellite imagery with tools to help detect changes and map trends on the Earth's surface. Earth Engine has already been applied to unlock valuable information from the 40+ year treasure trove of Landsat satellite data [USGS/NASA], including an interactive time lapse of the planet from 1984-2012, the first high-resolution global maps of deforestation, and a near-real-time deforestation alert system that allows anyone interested in forest monitoring to take part. We hope that with this new donation, researchers will focus on applying Earth Engine to address climate-related risks such as managing agricultural water supplies and modeling the impacts of sea-level rise and storm surge."

In addition, Google is teaming up with leading researchers and "allowing them to scale their work with Earth Engine and quickly move from the laboratory into people's hands," he wrote. "Together with academic partners in the western U.S., we'll produce the first high-resolution, near-real-time drought monitoring and mapping products for the entire continental United States—and make them freely available to the public."

Google is also providing free data storage to support the initiative and its work, wrote Erickson, including one petabyte [1 billion megabytes] of cloud storage to house satellite observations, digital elevation data, and climate/weather model data sets." We encourage the global community to work with us on this project by contributing and curating data, and developing public-benefit applications. We're already collaborating with researchers at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, University of Bristol U.K. and the government of Australia."

Google has supported climate research in the past, as well.

In February 2013, Google announced the winners of its first-ever Google App Engine Research Awards, which included one project that analyzed global climate data sets. The project, a Cloud Computing-Based Visualization and Access of Global Climate Data Sets, was conducted by Enrique Vivoni, an associate professor of Hydrologic Science, Engineering & Sustainability at Arizona State University; Giuseppe Mascaro, a research engineer; Jyothi Marupila, a graduate student; and Mario A. Rodriguez, a software engineer. The project uses Google App Engine for analyzing global climate data within the Google Maps API. The objective is to provide scientific data on global climate trends by allowing map-based queries and summaries, according to an eWEEK report.

The project was one of seven winning entries that used the App Engine platform's abilities to work with large data sets for academic and scientific research. The program, which was announced in the spring of 2012, brought in many proposals for a wide variety of scientific research, including mathematics, computer vision, bioinformatics, climate and computer science.

Google, which is a huge consumer of electricity for its modern data centers, offices and operations around the world, is always looking for ways of conserving energy and using renewable energy sources. The company has been making large investments in wind power for its data centers since 2010. Energy production is known to have a huge impact on the Earth's climate.

In January 2013, Google announced an investment of $200 million in a wind farm in western Texas near Amarillo, as the company continued to expand its involvement in the renewable energy marketplace. Google has also invested in the Spinning Spur Wind Project in Oldham County in the Texas Panhandle.

Other Google renewable energy investments include the Atlantic Wind Connection project, which will span 350 miles of the coast from New Jersey to Virginia to connect 6,000 megawatts of offshore wind turbines; and the Shepherds Flat project in Arlington, Ore., which is one of the world's largest wind farms with a capacity of 845 megawatts. Shepherds Flat began operating in October 2012.