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United States

Promote Open Climate Data (US0094)



Action Plan: United States Action Plan 2015-2017

Action Plan Cycle: 2015

Status: Inactive


Lead Institution: NA

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

E-Government, Environment and Climate, Open Data

IRM Review

IRM Report: United States End-of-Term IRM Report 2015-2017, United States Mid-Term Report 2015-2017

Starred: No

Early Results: Major Major

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information Civic Participation , Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i



The United States is a leader in providing information about climate, including through the Climate Resilience Toolkit comprising 40 tools, five map layers, and case studies in key areas of climate change risks and vulnerability, and with the Climate Data Initiative, an online catalog of more than 250 high-value climate-related datasets and data products from a dozen Federal agencies. Building on the success of these domestic initiatives, the United States will work to expand the availability and accessibility of climate-relevant data worldwide and promote the development of new technologies, products, and information services that can help solve real-life problems in the face of a changing climate.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

IRM End of Term Status Summary

Commitment 42. Open Climate Data

Commitment Text:

Promote Open Climate Data Around the Globe

The United States is a leader in providing information about climate, including through the Climate Resilience Toolkit comprising 40 tools, five map layers, and case studies in key areas of climate change risks and vulnerability, and with the Climate Data Initiative, an online catalog of more than 250 high-value climate-related datasets and data products from a dozen Federal agencies. Building on the success of these domestic initiatives, the United States will work to expand the availability and accessibility of climate-relevant data worldwide and promote the development of new technologies, products, and information services that can help solve real-life problems in the face of a changing climate. To promote open climate data globally the United States will:

  • Manage Arctic Data as a Strategic Asset. The United States currently chairs the Arctic Council, the intergovernmental forum for addressing environment, stewardship and climate issues convened by eight Arctic governments (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States) and the indigenous peoples of the Arctic. In an effort to make Arctic data more accessible and useful, the United States will encourage Arctic Council member countries and the global community to inventory relevant government data and publish a list of datasets that are public or can be made public.
  • Work to Stimulate Partnerships and Innovation. The United States will work with other countries to leverage open data to stimulate innovation and private-sector entrepreneurship in the application of climate-relevant data in support of national climate-change preparedness. This will be pursued through partnerships such as the Climate Services for Resilient Development, which the United States launched this summer with more than $34 million in financial and in-kind contributions from the U.S. Government and seven other founding-partner institutions from around the world.
  • Strive to Fill Data Gaps. The United States will seek international opportunities to help meet critical data needs. For example, the United States is creating the first-ever publicly available, high-resolution Digital Elevation Model (DEM) of the Arctic to support informed land management, sustainable development, safe recreation, and scientific studies, as well as domain-specific challenges. DEMs can also serve as benchmarks against which future landscape changes (due to, for instance, erosion, sea level rise, extreme events, or climate change) can be measured. Moving forward, the United States will explore creating similarly valuable resources for parts of the world where publicly available, reliable, and high-resolution data are currently not available.
  • Create a National Integrated Heat Health Information System. Heat early-warning systems can serve as effective tools for reducing illness, death, and loss of productivity associated with extreme heat. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are building a new National Integrated Heat Health Information System, which will provide a suite of decision-support services that better serve public health needs to prepare and respond. This effort will identify and harmonize existing capabilities and define and deliver the research, observations, prediction, vulnerability assessments, and other information needed to support heat-health preparedness. To inform the development of Integrated Heat Health Information Systems, the Administration will work closely with industry stakeholders and with other countries to implement a series of pilot projects that facilitate joint learning, co-production of knowledge, and the generation information and tools based on open data. These pilot activities will focus on collaborations at the city, regional, national, and international scales and are aimed at preparing citizens, communities, and governments to be more resilient to extreme heat events.

Responsible Institutions: Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) within Commerce, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) within Department of Defense, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) within Health and Human Services (HHS), and United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

Supporting Institutions: Arctic Council member countries, global environmental advocacy organizations, academia, and the public

Start Date: Not Specified End Date: Not Specified

Editorial Note: This commitment is a starred commitment because it is measurable, clearly relevant to OGP values as written, has transformative potential impact, and is substantially or completely implemented.

Commitment Aim

This commitment aimed for the US government to expand the global availability and accessibility of climate-relevant data and promote the development of tools to help solve problems that arise in the context of a “changing climate” by:

  • Encouraging Arctic Council-member countries[1] and members of the global community to take inventory of climate-relevant government data and publish a list of datasets that are or will be made publicly available;
  • Fostering private sector initiatives that leverage climate-relevant data to further national climate-change preparedness, in conjunction with other countries;
  • Filling critical gaps in climate-relevant data, with the creation of a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) for the Arctic serving as a pilot; and
  • Developing a National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS), a public health decision-support system to improve resilience to extreme heat events, based on pilot projects to be developed in conjunction with industry stakeholders and other countries.


Midterm: Limited

At the midterm, the government had made limited overall progress on this commitment:

  • The US government made efforts to publish US-held climate-relevant data through the Climate Data Initiative ( and the Climate Resilience Toolkit ([2] However, the IRM researcher was unable to find evidence that the United States explicitly encouraged other Artic Council-member states to inventory or prepare a list of publicly available climate-relevant data. Progress on Milestone 42.1 was therefore limited at the midterm.
  • The government continued an ongoing collaboration with partner countries through the Climate Services for Resilient Development Partnership, but did not engage in additional activities relevant for this milestone.[3] Progress on Milestone 42.2 was therefore limited at the midterm.
  • By the close of the midterm reporting period, the government had come close to completing DEMs for Alaska, with the development of DEMs for other areas of the Artic underway. However, as no DEM data was released prior to September 2016,[4] progress on Milestone 42.3 was limited at the midterm.
  • The government began working on several pilot projects, such as a regional pilot for the northeast United States, based in New York City. However, no pilot projects had officially launched by the midterm.[5] The NIHHIS’s web portal launched on 23 May 2016,[6] providing several heat-related resources, and the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration and the White House each hosted a webinar on the subject of extreme heat in April and May 2016,[7] respectively.

End of term: Substantial

By the end of term, the government had made substantial overall progress on this commitment.

The IRM researcher was unable to document further progress on Milestone 42.1 using publicly available information. Section 29 of the Arctic Council’s Fairbanks Declaration of 2017, signed on 11 May 2017, touches indirectly on member-states sharing of climate-relevant data, stating that Arctic Council-member countries “reiterate the importance of climate science to our understanding of the changing Arctic region and our activities in the Arctic environment, welcome the work towards a regional digital elevation model, and encourage continued efforts to coordinate the management and sharing of data that serve as indicators and predictors of climate change, based, inter alia, on the World Climate Research Program of the World Meteorological Organization.”[8] However, the IRM researcher does not consider this to be sufficient evidence that the US government has actively worked to encourage other member countries to inventory and make available climate-relevant data as described in the commitment text. Progress on this milestone therefore remains limited at the end of term.

As it relates to stimulating partnerships for leveraging open climate data for climate resilience (Milestone 42.2), on 22 September 2016, the White House announced the launch of the Partnership for Resilience and Preparedness (PREP). According to the corresponding press release, “the partnership will identify priority-information needs, reduce barriers to data access and usability, and develop an open-source platform to enable sharing and learning on the availability and use of data and information for climate resilience.”[9] Structurally, PREP is a public-private partnership that brings together government agencies, civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations, and private sector actors to help meet these goals, and emerged directly from the Climate Data Initiative to facilitate greater global access to climate-relevant data.

On the same date, the White House also released the “Joint Declaration on Harnessing the Data Revolution for Climate Resilience.” In conjunction with 13 partner governments and various private sector companies and civil society organizations, the declaration “calls for concrete actions in order to increase international climate resilience through improving accessibility and usability of data.”[10] As described in the text of the declaration, signatories commit to mobilizing public and private sector actors to leverage data for climate resilience, share climate-relevant data openly, support public and private sector work to encourage open-source climate-relevant data platform, increase collaboration to fill data gaps, utilize common data and technical standards, and encourage and support complementary climate resilience initiatives.[11] Collectively, these actions are complementary to PREP’s three main activities, which include engaging communities of data producers and users to help support climate resilience, reducing barriers to data access and use data to further climate resilience, and developing an open-source platform to facilitate access to and usability of climate-relevant data.[12]

With respect to the open-source platform in particular, PREP launched a beta open-source platform for climate-relevant data—Partnership for Resilience & Preparedness Beta Platform—on the day of the announcement, inaugurating a one-year pilot phase for the platform.[13] At the close of the end-of-term reporting period, the platform remained in beta mode and there was very little data available. With respect to both PREP and the Joint Declaration, the White House specifically situated them in the context of this milestone, noting that “PREP and the Joint Declaration respond to the commitments the Administration made as part of its Third Open Government National Action Plan to work to expand the availability and accessibility of climate-relevant data worldwide, leverage open data to stimulate innovation and private-sector entrepreneurship in the application of climate-relevant data, and seek international opportunities to help meet critical data needs.” In light of these activities, the IRM researcher concludes that Milestone 42.2 is complete.

In terms of filling climate data gaps (Milestone 42.3), on 1 September 2016, the US National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and the National Science Foundation (NSF) jointly announced the release of the DEM for Alaska.[14] The Digital Elevation Mode was made available on an unclassified, open Arctic data portal called “NGA Arctic Support 2017.”[15] Per a corresponding Medium post announcing the Alaska DEM’s release, the open data portal contains a variety of different information such as “map viewers, DEM exploratory tools, nautical charts, sailing directions, infographics, and a downloadable Pan-Arctic map with mission-specific data layers.”[16]

DEMs for the Arctic were extended beyond Alaska and made publicly available in a series of subsequent releases throughout the latter half of 2016 and into 2017.[17] The latest release falling within the end-of-term reporting period—ArticDEM Release 5—was made available on 2 June 2017, and brought total DEM coverage of the Artic region up to 65%. The NGA and the NSF announced ArcticDEM Release 6 on 6 September 2017, several months after the close of the end-of-term reporting period, bringing total DEM coverage for the Arctic to 97.4%.[18] The final ArcticDEM release is scheduled for mid-2018.[19] The IRM researcher assesses Milestone 42.3 to be substantially complete, given the government’s progress on developing and releasing the Artic DEMs, a process which was inching closer to completion several months after the end of term.

As for creating a National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS) as part of Milestone 14.4, the government has begun to make more substantial progress on a series of NIHHIS North American pilot projects, each of which is region-specific and anchored by a regional focal city (with the exception of the Southwest Regional Pilot, which has three). On 13 July 2016, the NIHHIS—in partnership with a group of universities and local and federal government agencies—officially launched the NIHHIS Southwest Regional Pilot during a workshop in El Paso called “Developing an Integrated Heat Health Information System for Long-Term Resilience to Climate and Weather Extremes in the El Paso-Juárez-Las Cruces Region.”[20] Per the Workshop’s Executive Summary Report, “The NIHHIS pilot is designed to facilitate ongoing engagement with people in the region to understand climatic, institutional, social, and other aspects of extreme heat health risk and to create a long-term approach to improving resilience to extremes.” Follow-up activities related to the workshop include having volunteers from five workstreams organized via the workshop (equivalent to working groups) meet regularly to work toward a series of recommendations surrounding heat health resilience, with the workshop’s organizing committee additionally suggesting taking inventory of data, initiatives, and other resources to help develop a “state-of-knowledge assessment for extreme heat and public health in the region,” supported by the El Paso Office of Resilience and Sustainability.[21]

The Southwest Pilot Projects workstreams reconvened in Tucson, Arizona on 18 January 2017 for a series of follow-up meetings to the initial workshop, with the goal of facilitating ongoing communication and planning for the heat season.[22] Related, the US-Mexico “Border Heat-Health Partnership emerged directly from the El Paso workshop, and aims to ‘reduce heat-related illness and deaths in the region by developing the capacity to prepare for and respond to extreme heat events.’”[23] The partnership hosted an initial heat health workshop in Mexico on 17-18 May 2017.[24] At the close of the end-of-term reporting period, two additional NIHHIS pilots were also reported to be underway by the NIHHIS: the Northeast Pilot (with New York City as its focal point) and the Midwest/Great Lakes Pilot (with Chicago as its focal point).[25] However, the IRM researcher was unable to obtain any information on those pilots’ status at the time of writing. An additional Western Pilot (with Reno as its focal point) was scheduled to launch in 2017, with other pilots of paired domestic and international cities to follow in 2018.[26] However, given that only the Southwest Pilot appears to have formally launched by the close of the end-of-term reporting period, the IRM researcher assesses that progress on Milestone 42.4 remains limited at the end of term.

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Major

Civic Participation: Major

This commitment significantly opened government with respect to both access to information and civic participation.

Concerning access to information, the activities carried out under this commitment resulted in the release of substantial amounts of new information relative to the status quo—such as the PREP data platform (Milestone 42.2) and the Arctic DEMs (Milestone 42.3)—while also developing infrastructure to facilitate greater access to information in the future, both through these initiatives and through the NIHIIS’s North American Pilot Projects (Milestone 42.4). As described above, each of these activities represents an entirely new project, as opposed to an extension of an existing project, highlighting their substantial importance for the open government agenda. Moreover, the government has clearly articulated specific follow-up activities—such as populating the PREP platform with additional data, releasing the final Artic DEM, and launching the remaining NIHIIS pilots—that will serve to further increase access to information going forward.

The new data offered on the PREP platform and Arctic DEM portal are particularly noteworthy. The former allows users to visualize important climate trends over time and across the globe.[27] With a map-based display and several data filters, the website is easy to use. By early 2018, the website included visualizations for more than 100 datasets ranging from measures of exposure to changes in climate indicators such as temperature, precipitation, and extreme events.

As for the Arctic DEM, the newly-disclosed elevation data for the Arctic is a major improvement over the low-quality data that was previously available. Given the challenges of flying planes over the Arctic to capture topographical information, Mars and the moon were better mapped than Alaska and other areas in the Arctic prior to the action plan.[28] While previous data had a horizontal resolution of several hundred feet, the new data[29]—built in partnership with researchers and commercial satellite technology—has a horizontal resolution that ranges between seven to 17 feet.[30] This new high-quality data can in turn be used to more closely study the effects of climate change, such as coastal erosion, forest loss, and shrinking glaciers. Moreover, there is already evidence of academic researchers using the new data to study changes in the Earth’s surface.[31]

With respect to civic participation, the NIHIIS Southwest Pilot carried out under Milestone 42.4 (the only milestone relevant for this OGP value) has begun to facilitate the development of new partnerships between federal and local government and universities with a particular focus on risks related to extreme heat. As demonstrated by the NIHIIS’s anticipated launch of subsequent regional pilots and the Border Heat-Health Partnership that has already emerged from the Southwest Pilot, these collaborations are ongoing in nature and represent a substantial and new opportunity for civic participation relative to the status quo. PREP, which is supported by a combination of 13 government, private sector, and civil society partners, represents another bright spot in this area by nature of its efforts to enlist civil society to help fill gaps in climate-relevant data. The development of the Arctic DEM is also a noteworthy example of collaboration between government, the academic sector, and companies to achieve greater data disclosures.

Carried Forward?

At the time of writing, the US government had not published its fourth national action plan, so it is unclear if this commitment will be carried forward. The government should nevertheless work to complete the activities under this commitment that remain outstanding at the end of term, specifically encouraging Artic Council members to inventory and document climate-relevant data, improving the availability of climate-relevant data via PREP, releasing the remaining Arctic DEMs, and proceeding with the remaining NIHIIS pilots.

[1] Arctic Council. “Member States.” 6 July 2015. Consulted 9 October 2017.

[2] It is unclear if this data was disclosed during the period evaluated in this report. For example, the Arctic theme in the US Climate Resilience Toolkit was available dating back to at least September 2015, prior to the start of the third national action plan. See an archived version of the Toolkit from September 2015 here: As for the Climate Data Initiative, there were 270 Arctic-related datasets online as of September 2015 (see archived version here: ), compared to 251 in May 2016 (see archived version here: ).

[3] Open Government Partnership. “United States of America Midterm Self-Assessment Report for the Open Government Partnership: Third Open Government National Action Plan, 2015–2017,” pp.43-44. September 2016. Consulted 2 October 2017.

[4] Ibid. See also, NGA Arctic Support 2017 ( which specifies that the five major releases of data began in September 2016. Furthermore, third party sources (available here: indicate that progress was limited as of mid-2016.

[5] Trtanj, Juli. “Building Resilience to Extreme Heat: The National Integrated Heat Health Information System.” Commission for Environmental Cooperation. Consulted 9 October 2017. See also, Gregg Garfin et al. “Developing an Integrated Heat-Health Information System for Long-term Resilience to Climate and Weather Extremes in the El Paso-Juárez-Las Cruces Region.” 16 November 2016. Consulted 9 October 2017.

[6] Climate Program Office. “National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS) Web Launch: May 23, 2016,” 10 July 2017. Consulted 9 October 2017.

[7] NOAA Climate Program Office. “MAPP Webinar Series,” 26 April 2016 NOAA Climate Program Office, Consulted 9 October 2017, and “NOAA Climate Program Office. White House Webinar.” 26 May 2016. Consulted 9 October 2017.

[8] U.S. Department of State. “Fairbanks Declaration 2017: On the Occasion of the Tenth Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council.” Consulted 24 September 2017.

[9] White House Office of the Press Secretary. “FACT SHEET: Launching New Public-Private Partnership and Announcing Joint Declaration on Leveraging Open Data for Climate Resilience.” 22 September 2016. Consulted 24 September 2017.

[10] Ibid. For the text of the Declaration, see “Joint Declaration on Harnessing the Data Revolution for Climate Resilience.” 22 September 2016. Consulted 24 September 2017.

[11] Ibid.

[12] White House Office of the Press Secretary. “FACT SHEET: Launching New Public-Private Partnership and Announcing Joint Declaration on Leveraging Open Data for Climate Resilience.” 22 September 2016. Consulted 24 September 2017.

[13] Ibid. The platform is available at Consulted 24 September 2017.

[14] National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. “NGA, NSF release 3-D elevation models of Alaska for White House Arctic initiative.” 1 September 2016. Consulted 24 September 2017.

[15] National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. “NGA Arctic Support 2017: The Arctic.” Consulted 24 September 2017.

[16] The Obama White House. “New Elevation Map Details Alaska Like Never Before.” 1 September 2016. Medium. Consulted 24 September 2017.

[17] For details on the second release from 1 October 2016, see University of Minnesota. “ArticDEM Release 2”; for details on the third release from 14 February 2017, see University of Minnesota. “ArticDEM Release 3.” For details on the fifth release from 2 June 2017, see University of Minnesota. “ArticDEM Release 5.” All consulted 24 September 2017.

[18] University of Minnesota. “ArticDEM Release 6.” 6 September 2017. Consulted 24 September 2017.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Garfin, Gregg et al. “Developing an Integrated Heat Health Information System for

Long-Term Resilience to Climate and Weather Extremes in the El Paso-Juárez-Las Cruces Region: Executive Summary from the Workshop Held in El Paso, TX, July 13, 2016.” University of Arizona Institute to the Environment. 13 July 2016. Consulted 24 September 2017. The pilot is sometimes alternatively referred to as the Rio Grande/Bravo Pilot. See Climate Program Office. “Rio Grande-Rio Bravo (RGB) Regional Pilot Area.” Consulted 24 September 2017.

[21] Ibid. p.3.

[22] Garfin, Gregg and Sarah LeRoy.


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