Commerce Data Service: Using Weather Data to Protect Lives and Property

By Chrissie Cluney December 08, 2015

Tornados and hail are an unavoidable recurrence in the weather for some areas that have a real, and negative, impact on people’s lives.

The U.S. government recently launched the Commerce Data Service, which works with the 12 bureaus that make up the Commerce Department to identify opportunities to maximize data to better serve the public that deal with these events. One of the Service's top priorities is developing data visualizations that simply and effectively explain complex data sets.

“Weather events such as tornados, hail and other severe weather events cause billions of dollars of damage each year,” said Jeff Chen, Chief Data Scientist, DOC.

To prepare, the Commerce Data Service has collaborated with the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), part of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), to better collect data in advance for these events.  The Severe Weather Data Inventory (SWDI) is the database that came from this collaboration.

The SWDI database is a data source with applications for everything from earth science research and emergency management planning to insurance risk management. It can be mixed together and combined with a wide range of data to produce useful insights.

Hail, for example, is one of the weather events that the SWDI assists in helping consumers prepare for. The severity of hail is often times associated with the diameter of the hail ball. This in turn may inflict varying amounts of damage to property, crops and possibly injury to people. Certain areas of the Midwest often experience baseball-sized hail requiring different planning than the pea-sized hail, which is more widespread across the country.

Having the Commerce Data Service at the ready and available to the general public can be a tremendous advantage for preparing for these uncontrollable events. This service allows us to have some knowledge ahead of time. From knowledge comes insight and better ways of preparing one’s family and livelihood.  

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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