Big Data vs. Climate Change

In November, a group of EMC and Pivotal data scientists and platform architects teamed up with members of the Earthwatch Institute and the Schoodic Institute, braving the driving wind and freezing temperatures in Acadia National Park in Maine to study bird migration.  The goal?  To showcase how, with best of breed data lake architecture, big data can do more than just predict our grocery lists; it can illuminate and illustrate the impact of climate change on the environment we live in.

Climate change isn’t always easy for us, as individuals, to get our arms around. For starters, the information we receive can seem maddeningly contradictory. We hear that climate change is responsible for warmer winters with less snow, and then we hear it’s the culprit behind bigger blizzards. On top of that, scientific research is often presented in a way that only a climate-focused scientist can decipher.

This is where big data has the opportunity to make a big impact. This week, EMC announced Big Data vs. Climate Change, a new project in conjunction with the White House Climate Data Initiative. The goal of the project is to take publically available nature and climate data and present them in a relevant and digestible form. In addition, it should enhance researchers’ ability to explore data sets that have not been connected in the past in order to draw deeper, more meaningful insights.

So why did our data scientists and platform architects need to journey to Maine during one of the coldest months of the year? Besides bringing their unique skill sets to the program’s design, they got to participate in citizen science work. Citizen scientists are a critical component of scientific research, every day adding to the mountains of new data on climate change.

The new Big Data vs. Climate Change program aims to harness the data being captured by citizen scientists and provide analysis and visualizations that help them follow the progress of the research to which they contributed. Through their experience in Maine, the EMC team experienced the genuine connection between their day to day work in technology and the greater good of big data insight. I am delighted that it is through a company-sponsored citizen science experience that they have realized their own personal interests in the environment. Experience inspires determination; it enables action.

As I’ve discussed before, at EMC we see climate change as one of our most relevant sustainability factors. I am so excited that we will be able to leverage our own technology – and our talent – to make a positive impact in the science community. As the program expands, we plan to leverage our solution to allow more people access not only to citizen science, but also to data science, by providing a sandbox platform for learning data analytics and visualization skills using the climate data.

The more that visual data can show us the impacts of a changing climate in a way that is personal and meaningful, the more action we are likely to take in the future.

About the Author: Kathrin Winkler