In honor of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference; the critical role that citizen science can play in understanding and mitigating the effects of climate change. – LFF
Climate change is a very real problem facing our planet. The term “climate change” can cover a great many things, some natural and some man made, including global warming and loss of wildlife habitat. Each of these brings its own challenges but, increasingly, big data and analytics are being put to use to come up with new solutions and research methods.
Climate scientists have been gathering a great deal of data for a long time, but analytics technology’s catching up is comparatively recent. Now that cloud, distributed storage, and massive amounts of processing power are affordable for almost everyone, those data sets are being put to use. On top of that, the growing number of Internet of Things devices we are carrying around are adding to the amount of data we are collecting. And the rise of social media means more and more people are reporting environmental data and uploading photos and videos of their environment, which also can be analyzed for clues.
Perhaps one of the most ambitious projects that employ big data to study the environment is Microsoft’s Madingley, which is being developed with the intention of creating a simulation of all life on Earth. The project already provides a working simulation of the global carbon cycle, and it is hoped that, eventually, everything from deforestation to animal migration, pollution, and overfishing will be modeled in a real-time “virtual biosphere.” Just a few years ago, the idea of a simulation of the entire planet’s ecosphere would have seemed like ridiculous, pie-in-the-sky thinking. But today it’s something into which one of the world’s biggest companies is pouring serious money. Microsoft is doing this because it believes that analytical technology has finally caught up with the ability to collect and store data.
Featured image: A smart city showcase in China in May. (Photo credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images)