Why is climate change big data’s biggest challenge?

Environment | Sectors   |   
Published June 25, 2014   |   
Katherine Noyes

Global sea levels are about eight inches higher today than they were in 1880, and they are expected to rise another two to seven feet during this century. At the same time, some 5 million people in the U.S. live in 2.6 million coastal homes situated less than 4 feet above high tide.

Do the math: Climate change is a problem, whatever its cause.

The problem? Actually making those complex calculations is an extremely challenging proposition. To understand the impact of climate change at the local level, you’ll need more than back-of-the-napkin mathematics.
You’ll need big data technology.

Surging Seas is an interactive map and tool developed by the nonprofit Climate Central that shows in graphic detail the threats from sea-level rise and storm surges to all of the 3,000-plus coastal towns, cities, counties and states in the continental United States. With detail down to neighborhood scale—search for a specific location or zoom down as necessary—the tool matches areas with flooding risk timelines and provides links to fact sheets, data downloads, action plans, embeddable widgets, and other items.

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