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White House launches new climate data initiative Wednesday

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The White House is launching an initiative Wednesday that aims to expand the use of climate data nationwide, to help communities cope with the impacts of global warming.

The effort includes making federal data more accessible through; launching a design competition to demonstrate the extent to which Americans are vulnerable to coastal flooding; releasing new federal map data to depict which aspects of the nation's infrastructure are vulnerable to climate change; and enlisting private firms such as Google and the software company Esri to disseminate and store data.

In a joint blog post, White House counselor John D. Podesta and the president's science adviser John P. Holdren wrote that the effort "will help create easy-to-use tools for regional planners, farmers, hospitals, and businesses across the country—and empower America’s communities to prepare themselves for the future."

"Every citizen will be affected by climate change—and all of us must work together to make our communities stronger and more resilient to its impacts," they wrote.

The administration tried to launch a similar effort back in 2010. Modeled loosely on the National Weather Service, the administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at the time, Jane Lubchenco, called it a National Climate Service.

NOAA had begun exploring the idea toward the end of the Bush administration, when officials became increasingly concerned the agricultural industry as well as regional and local planners lacked the climate data they needed to make long-term decisions. But congressional Republicans resisted the idea.

Under the initiative launched Wednesday Esri will work with with 12 cities across the United States to create free and open “maps and apps” to help state and local planning officials. Google will donate 1,000 terabytes of cloud storage for climate data, along with 50 million hours of high-performance computing with the Google Earth Engine platform to the effort.

Dawn Zimmer, mayor of Hoboken, N.J., said in a statement that the move allows her city "to conduct a data driven analysis and demonstrate that a comprehensive strategy to address Hoboken’s flooding challenges is a cost-effective solution to protecting our area that will also save the federal government money in the long term."

“As we work with a team of experts to make Hoboken more resilient, it is critical that we have the tools and data necessary to anticipate the impacts of climate change," she added.