Analytics Tools Offer Insight Into Climate Change

As the White House and private organizations attempt to better understand the growing impact of climate change and the effect of the California drought on businesses and the general public, they’re turning to more advanced analytics and data dashboards to connect the data dots.

One organization, Circle of Blue—a not for profit, non-advocacy group that reports on water and resources globally—is attempting to become a leader in the use of analytics. In March, as part of the White House Climate Data Initiative, it announced the use of a new dashboard that provides deep insights into everything from consumption patterns to water supply conditions. The information is ultimately used to inform journalists and shape public policy.

“California and other parts of the world are facing serious inflection points and actual crises in regard to water and climate,” states J. Carl Ganter, founder and director of Circle of Blue. Because California is a leading agricultural state and has the nation’s largest population, the current drought (the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains has dropped to about 30 percent of normal) is creating new issues and challenges involving urban planning, managing municipal systems and balancing demand for water resources.

Circle of Blue, which also works with organizations such as the World Economic Forum and The Rockefeller Foundation, will draw from public data sets to visualize current and past levels of California water reservoirs and compare hyper-local information and research with national and global trends. The Qlik business intelligence (BI) and analytics system offers researchers, water managers and the public immediate access to strategic data about water, including comparisons of present and historical water supply conditions.

“The goal is to gain a better understanding of what can be done to address the major economic and practical issues related to the drought and other important issues,” Ganter explains. The application aids in developing Circle of Blue’s Choke Point Index, a series of in-depth reports about the competition between water, food and energy in a changing climate. The company combines in-depth reporting with collections of fresh and historically relevant data to provide greater context for decision making using the Qlik dashboard.

Ganter says that the initiative fits into the bigger picture of tapping big data, but it also creates an environment that’s conducive to sharing and integrating data more effectively. In March, the White House announced that as part of the Climate Data Initiative, agencies, including NASA and NOAA, would collaborate more tightly to better understand natural and human systems. The focus is increasingly on private-public partnerships that involve government, corporations and not-for-profit organizations, he adds.

Powerful BI and analytics capabilities are valuable, Ganter says, because one of the biggest challenges associated with the initiative is ensuring that data is accurate and available across different organizations and agencies.

“You can be flooded with data, so the ability to sort through it and drill down into it more effectively allows participants to compare data and take a more creative approach to using and combining data sets,” he points out. “The data assists in identifying key issues, trends and inflection points, so that it’s possible to arrive at more effective strategies and solutions.”