Google to bring NOAA data to new heights

The research and development agreement brings together the data and expertise of NOAA scientists with the data handling and software expertise of Google.

Have you ever wanted to go to a Web site and get detailed information about weather patterns, ocean temperatures or rainfall averages? The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is one of the federal agencies most responsible for getting scientific information out to the public, and it has chosen Google as a partner to collaborate on several research and development projects to make the data more accessible online.

The cooperative R&D agreement will enable the two organizations to collaborate for their mutual benefit and for the benefit of the public without an exchange of money. Google gets access to vast amounts of data and Earth sciences expertise, and NOAA gets access to software and visualization acumen.

“We have such vast amounts of information about the Earth’s systems, and we’re looking for better ways to get that information to an ever-increasing audience,” said Richard Spinrad, NOAA assistant administrator for research. “Google is arguably the world’s expert in handling data, particularly in large volumes.”

The agreement is not obligatory and does not bind the parties to specific projects. But it gives each party broad access to the resources of the other that are more difficult to provide on case-by-case basis, and the chance to cooperate in areas of mutual interest.

“Some may pan out and some may not,” Spinrad said. “But they are opportunities.”

One of the opportunities is visualizing data. NOAA is no stranger to visualization. Its Science on a Sphere technology, which it licenses to museums, science centers, research facilities and schools around the world, uses a computer-driven multi-projector system to realistically display scientific data about the Earth on a spherical surface. Spinrad would like to expand that capability to new datasets.

“Right now on Google Earth you can pull up data on a flat screen and see some really interesting things,” he said. “Imagine doing that on a sphere. That’s powerful stuff.”

This would be done by rendering files in the Keyhole Markup Language used by Google Earth for display in the Science on a Sphere system. This would require translating files from two-coordinate dimensions to four coordinates (the three spatial dimensions plus time). Doing this would give Google a new way to display its data and would give NOAA new datasets to use with Science on a Sphere.

A shortcoming in Google Earth is the difficulty of showing real-time data. NOAA would like to make this more efficient so that video and data from its new Okeanos Explorer exploration ship, now undergoing sea trials in the Pacific, could be displayed in Google. The ship has the latest communications technology for live, near-real-time audio, video and data transmission via satellite and Internet2 to five on-shore Exploration Command Centers that will give scientists on shore an opportunity to participate in the ship’s mission as they are needed.

“We want to be able to use Google Earth the vehicle to let school kids all around the world see what’s going on on the floor of the Indian Ocean,” Spinrad said. Doing that would require plenty of bandwidth and sophisticated handling of large data flows. “You can’t just have streaming video, you have to have some metadata and context.”

This is not the first collaboration between Google and NOAA. After Hurricane Katrina, digital aerial images of the disaster area from the National Geodetic Survey were made available within 48 hours on Google Earth, giving individuals quick access to detailed information of damage in specific areas.

“It was a wonderful mix of the NOAA mission and the ability to reach out to the public,” Spinrad said.

Spinrad was part of an advisory council that worked with Google to produce Google Ocean, launched last year to make geospatial data in the form of NOAA images, video and current data available in Google Earth.

The current agreement is a way of extending these efforts, said Alan Leonardi, NOAA’s principal investigator for the agreement. He spent a five-month fellowship at Google in 2008 and 2009. During that time, he operated as what he called the “NOAA-Google dating service,” bringing together experts from each organization to work on projects. The agreement continues and expands that relationship in a more formal manner.

Other possible areas of cooperation are compiling and improving bathymetric datasets for display and downloading, making data from the Integrated Ocean Observing System and Greenhouse Gas Monitoring System available online, and providing interactive access to marine zoning and regulatory information.

“The public is paying for it,” Spinrad said, so it should be available to the public.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.