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AGU Hosts Amazon Hack-A-Thon at Fall Meeting

Fall Meeting attendees get rare opportunity at Amazon Hack-A-Thon event to tackle climate change issues.

By Tricia McCarter

As part of the Amazon Web Services ­Hack-​­A-​­Thon, this year’s AGU Fall Meeting attendees will be challenged to create an idea for a Web product based on climate change data for individual cities.

The city climate projections will be provided by NASA’s climate data set Earth Exchange Global Downscaled Daily Projections (­NEX-GDDP). Data will be available for all cities with populations greater than 1 million. Coupled with Amazon’s Web capabilities, this will allow participants to address the ­Hack-​­A-​­Thon’s two challenges: What apps would you build if you had access to climate projections for the rest of this century at the scale of individual cities? How would you visualize these climate projections to effectively engage policy makers, managers, planners, educators, and the general public?

Participants will work to conceive a mobile or Web application that takes advantage of the idea that the future projected climate of a city is likely analogous to the current climate of a different city. Through such analogs, city planners and resource managers may be able to better quantify how climate change will affect water supplies, the spread of disease, agriculture, and other important factors, with the goal of addressing climate change on the local level.

“We do expect to see some innovative and promising concepts emerge,” Amazon said in a statement. “The hope is that this ­Hack-​­A-​­Thon will be a catalyst for continued development in this topic and other similar areas of research.”

To help build apps for the ­Hack-​­A-​­Thon, participants can compare projections in ­NEX-GDDP with a reference data set and “the closest matches (i.e., the closest analogs in the reference data set)…can be analyzed for information about growing season lengths, species present, dominant crop types and farming practices, insurance costs associated with climate extremes, and other natural hazards,” Amazon explains on its website. “Displaying the locations of the closest analogs itself provides a powerful visual impression of the potential magnitude of climate change.”

The ­Hack-​­A-​­Thon approach provides an opportunity for scientists at the Fall Meeting to collaborate and foster unique ideas. By developing apps to showcase climate analogs, participants will work to help get critical information into the hands of decision makers, all at the touch of a button.

“Amazon can provide resources on a scale that most research institutions just can’t match. I think they can also make it easier for us to share data and tools within our community,” said Robert Pincus, research scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder and a judge at the ­Hack-​­A-​­Thon.

The 13−14 December event will be held at the Amazon Loft on Market Street in San Francisco. A panel of judges comprising climate scientists and technology developers will select the winners based on creativity and the potential to bring data to the public on a local level. Registration is open via the Fall Meeting events calendar, but space is limited. For more information, visit http://​fallmeeting​.agu​.org/​2014/​events/​awshack-​­a-​­thon/.

—Tricia McCarter, Production Assistant, AGU


Citation: McCarter, T. (2014), AGU hosts Amazon Hack-A-Thon at Fall Meeting, Eos Trans. AGU, 95(48), 448, doi:10.1002/2014EO480004.

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