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Historical Radar Data in Google Cloud

Image of clouds over blue ocean by NOAA
Courtesy of NOAA

A new partnership between NCEI and Google represents another big step toward greater public access to environmental data. Our historical archive and near real-time data of Level-II Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD) are now available as a public dataset on Google Cloud Storage.

NEXRAD Level-II data consist of the basic size, shape, and motion of raindrops, hail or debris detected in the atmosphere by each NEXRAD radar. These data are critical for precipitation estimates, hail estimates, storm motion, and early detection of tornadoes, ice, snow, flash floods, and destructive wind. Further, NEXRAD data contribute to weather forecasts and warnings, air traffic control, and the management of water, agriculture, and forests, among other uses.

NCEI receives the atmospheric data from 160 sites in an observation system that includes all the National Weather Service stations and select Department of Defense sites. As the official federal archive of the entire historical dataset, NCEI disseminates the information. Now, Google Cloud becomes an additional dissemination point.

The availability of the historical weather radar data in the Google Cloud comes about as an effort of NOAA’s Big Data Partnership, which furthers several goals: greater data accessibility, improved efficiency for users, and innovation. The Google collaboration expands NCEI’s suite of data alliances, which have been established with Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, IBM, and the Open Commons Consortium.

Benefits of Google Partnership

The Big Data Partnership aims to cultivate new lines of business and economic growth while making NOAA's data more easily accessible.

“This collective effort among federal government, private industry, and academia has already realized a number of new and novel applications that employ NOAA’s NEXRAD data, at no net cost to the U.S. taxpayer,” according to a journal article co-authored by NCEI’s Steve Ansari and researchers at NOAA, NCEI, and several data partners.

In fact, NEXRAD data are suited for distribution by cloud storage services. Cloud computing allows worldwide storage and retrieval of any amount of data at any time. The Google Cloud accommodates many uses, including storing data for archival and disaster recovery or distributing large data objects to users via direct download.

NEXRAD data from 1991 through present are available from Google. Users can analyze long periods of data at scale via Google download. The code to process the data on a massive scale is also available online.