Climate Data Initiative

Microsoft Azure for Research Award program

Climate Data InitiativeMicrosoft Research is announcing a special Climate Data Award program to provide scientists and decision-makers with access to Microsoft Azure cloud computing resources to support the White House Climate Data Initiative’s goals of preparedness for and resilience to climate change impacts.

This project is in response to the White House Climate Action Plan. This plan is an outcome of the June 25, 2013, announcement by President Obama of his comprehensive plans to reduce carbon pollution and move our economy toward American-made clean energy and slowing the effects of climate change.

Background

Microsoft Research is one of the largest research organizations in the world with more than 1,100 scientists and engineers working in 13 labs across four continents. Our mission has stayed the same for more than 20 years: to advance the state of the art in computing through a combination of basic and applied research.

The reason is simple: innovation is the essence of Microsoft’s products and services. As our researchers solve the toughest problems in computing, share their ideas with the greater research community, and collaborate with Microsoft product groups, they are ensuring that the company—and the computing industry—will continue to find new ways for technology to enhance our world for years to come.

Microsoft Research has a long history of research relating to big data challenges—a major component of that involves geoscience and climate research; we are excited to participate in the Climate Data Initiative launch. We hope to explore and contribute to the translation of scientific research and information to practical use among policy- and decision-makers charged with anticipating, preparing for, and adapting to current and future impacts of climate change.

Microsoft commitments

In support of the Climate Data Initiative, the Microsoft Research Microsoft Azure for Research program is sponsoring a special call for cloud computing solutions.

Microsoft Azure is a global-scale, public cloud computing platform and supporting infrastructure created by Microsoft for building, deploying, and managing applications and services on the web. These services may be a simple as a web page or as complex as a tool for exploring massive data collections.

Microsoft Research and the Microsoft Azure for Research program will grant 12 months of free cloud computing resources to 40 awardees selected from proposals submitted by September 15, 2014. Each award provides up to 180,000 hours of cloud computing time and 20 Terabytes of cloud storage. In addition, we will provide training classes to equip researchers with the tools needed to make use of this resource.

Microsoft further commits to the deployment of FetchClimate, a climate data resource for past and present observations and for climate-prediction information. FetchClimate will be available as a fast, free, intelligent environmental information-retrieval service and as a cloud-based system that can be adapted to the specific needs of new projects.

Finally, Microsoft Research will demonstrate powerful business intelligence tools built into the Microsoft technology platform. These tools support data self-service, analysis, visualization, and security that connect a decision-maker to the information streams that are forthcoming under the Climate Data Initiative. These tools could be coordinated in the following sample scenario: Microsoft Azure cloud services—through FetchClimate—would provide climate predictions for future extreme rainfall events. This predictive information would inform a planning model built on Microsoft Business Intelligence technologies, in turn enabling state planners to prioritize emergency preparedness and flood mitigation projects to protect population centers and transportation infrastructure from increased likelihood of inundation damage.

Microsoft Research uses Microsoft Azure extensively to build projects that are highly relevant to the Climate Data Initiative. These include:

  • FetchClimate: This climate data-retrieval service provides past and present observations and future extrapolations.
  • Node Atlas: This cloud-based service facilitates ease of data entry and enables a new form of geospatial data exploration. Users can select and perform visual queries by drawing multiple overlapping polygons, lines, and points on a map interface. Search results are then retained both as answers and as the basis for new questions.
  • Layerscape: This cloud-supported service enables data-driven story telling by using a constellation of information management tools surrounding a powerful graphics engine. 

Microsoft will contribute the climate data platform FetchClimate.

FetchClimate is a fast, free, intelligent environmental information-retrieval service that operates from the Microsoft Azure cloud.

  • A typical transaction involves selecting a time range and time interval configuration, a geographical region, and a set of desired climate parameters. FetchClimate delivers this information quickly as a table, together with provenance on the data source and error estimates for the provided observations.
  • In the case where future predictive data is of interest, FetchClimate can also generate datasets derived from climate forecast models maintained by the world’s premier climate modeling centers.
  • Microsoft will support the Climate Data Initiative directly through the no-cost FetchClimate data resource, particularly by providing high-profile scenarios illustrating how it can be used. As an example, FetchClimate can be used to inform an agricultural yield model to predict where a given crop can be expected to flourish as the climate changes in future decades.
  • In addition, Microsoft will work with the Climate Data Initiative to facilitate FetchClimate service architecture adoption. In a successful adoption scenario, other agencies or research groups would re-implement the FetchClimate engine, populate it with new datasets, and use it as the basis for targeted research. This re-implementation model uses an already functional cloud-based climate data solution without “reinventing the wheel.”

Microsoft Research will present data access, analysis, and visualization scenarios built on Microsoft Business Intelligence technology

Microsoft Business Intelligence is built on Microsoft Excel, Microsoft SharePoint, and Microsoft SQL Server.

  • It combines self-service data access, analysis, and interactive data visualization with cloud data management and security.
  • Business intelligence is not bounded by institutional walls; the same principles of data access and self-directed exploration and analytics have tremendous power applied to climate data and climate science.

Here is an example scenario for how a researcher may use the tools to help inform policy decisions:

  • An agricultural yield model for a variety of crops and livestock is built by using business intelligence tools within Excel.
  • The model is connected to the FetchClimate cloud information service to provide essential input.
  • A state planning commission uses the model to explore future scenarios based on predictive climate models.
  • The model aggregates additional data on energy cost, consumer demand, and possible mitigating factors, such as changes in regulation of fertilizer.
  • The results are used to motivate grants to state university agricultural research programs and to fund a pilot study program enlisting farmers to explore alternative crops voluntarily.

Microsoft Research tools relevant to the Climate Data Initiative

Microsoft Research will demonstrate some of our existing tools, technologies, and projects in support of the Climate Data Initiative. A more comprehensive list includes:

  • FetchClimate: This climate data-retrieval service provides past and present observations and future extrapolations.
  • Climatetrends.net: A climate-focused social media tracker
  • Node Atlas: This cloud-based service facilitates ease of data entry and enables a new form of geospatial data exploration. Users can select and perform visual queries by drawing multiple overlapping polygons, lines, and points on a map interface. Search results are then retained both as answers and as the basis for new questions.
  • Mobile devices: By making data and data-driven stories widely accessible, the value of climate data can be communicated to broader audiences.
  • Game scenarios: Interactive games can be used to translate scientific research on local-scale climate change impact into decision making and strategic thinking.
  • Layerscape: This cloud-based service enables data-driven storytelling by using a constellation of information management tools surrounding a powerful graphics engine.

Microsoft Azure for Research program

The Microsoft Azure for Research program was established to provide researchers with free access to Microsoft Azure for academic applications. Learn more about Microsoft Azure for Research.

  • The program has granted more than 360 awards to researchers in 20 countries for projects that focus on various disciplines.
  • The program also provides free hands-on Microsoft Azure training courses tailored for the scientific community. Learn more:

Application instructions

Researcher can apply to the program by providing a simple proposal that states the intent of the project and an outline for how your project will use the Microsoft Azure resources. Please note the following application requirements:

  • Length: Your proposal should be no longer than three pages.
  • Title: The first word in your proposal title must be “CDI” to ensure that your proposal is considered for this award.
  • Submission: Use the online application form to submit your proposal.
  • Deadline: Proposals will not be accepted after September 15, 2014.

Find answers to questions about submitting proposals in our proposal process FAQ.