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December 23, 2019

NOAA Announces New Data Collaborations with AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft

The United States’ National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA) possesses vast amounts of environmental data. Now, NOAA has announced a set of collaborations with major cloud providers, promising to “generate untold opportunities for scientific and economic advances.”

NOAA’s new multi-year agreements with Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud and Microsoft will dramatically expand “rapid and reliable” no-cost public access to NOAA data, which accumulates at a rate of tens of terabytes per day, gleaned from satellites, radar, weather models, and more. The providers’ contracts require them to provide free and open access to the data, but also allow them to charge for additional services related to the data, such as computational power.

“NOAA’s wealth of world-class environmental data will now be more accessible through partnerships with commercial cloud providers, which will allow the agency to better manage a rapidly increasing volume of data going forward,” said Neil Jacobs, NOAA’s acting administrator. “Cloud-based storage and processing is the future. Not only will this improved accessibility enhance NOAA’s core mission to protect life and property, but it will also open up new and exciting areas of research at universities and significant market opportunities for the private sector.”

These new agreements are part of NOAA’s Big Data Project, which aims to leverage public-private partnerships to decrease the costs of internally providing data access services. 

“The Big Data Project’s Cloud Service Providers have shown incredible commitment to open data principles, and they clearly understand the value of NOAA’s data to their customers and to the Nation’s economy,” said Ed Kearns, acting chief data officer at the Department of Commerce. 

NOAA’s partners in the collaboration echoed these sentiments. Dave Levy, AWS’ vice president of U.S. government, said that the agreement would “speed up the time to discovery, at a fraction of the price and time previously required”; Kate Brandt, a sustainability officer at Google, said it would help researchers tackle environmental challenges “regardless of their size and computing power”; and Lucas Joppa, chief environmental officer at Microsoft, said that the company was “thrilled to see its technology play a role in democratizing access to accelerate scientific discovery.”

This is all good news for NOAA’s Big Data Project, which is the first public-private partnership of its kind in U.S. government. The Big Data Project also received a Best in Class 2019 Government Innovation Award last month in the category of Public Sector Innovation, recognizing “innovative ways that government applies technology to better meet its mission and serve the public.”