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Blog Category: Acting NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan

NOAA Moves to Unleash “Big Data” and Calls Upon American Companies to Help

Guest blog post by Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., Acting Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Acting NOAA Administrator 

From the surface of the sun to the depths of the ocean floor, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), part of the Department of Commerce, works to keep citizens informed about the changing environment around them. Our vast network of radars, satellites, buoys, ships, aircraft, tide gauges, and supercomputers keeps tabs on the condition of our planet’s health and provides critical data that are used to predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coastlines. As we continue to witness changes on this dynamic planet we call home, the demand for NOAA’s data is only increasing. 

Quite simply, NOAA is the quintessential big data agency. Each day, NOAA collects, analyzes, and generates over 20 terabytes of data – twice the amount of data than what is in the United States Library of Congress’ entire printed collection. However, only a small percentage is easily accessible to the public. 

NOAA is not the only Commerce agency with a treasure trove of valuable information. The economic and demographic statistics from the Census Bureau, for example, inform business decisions every day. According to a 2013 McKinsey Global Institute Report, open data could add more than $3 trillion in total value annually to the education, transportation, consumer products, electricity, oil and gas, health care, and consumer finance sectors worldwide. That is why U.S. Secretary of  Commerce Penny Pritzker has made unleashing the power of Commerce data one of the top priorities of the Department’s “Open for Business Agenda.” 

Imagine the economic potential if more of these data could be released. Trillions more bytes of data from NOAA could help existing businesses, start-up companies, and even non-governmental organizations develop new and innovative products – products that might help us better understand our planet and keep communities, businesses, and ecosystems resilient from extreme events. 

It is a challenge that will take creative and unconventional thinking, and it is something we can’t tackle alone. 

NOAA Dedicates Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center in Honolulu

Alternate TextNOAA dedicates Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center in Honolulu

On Monday, December 16, the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) held a dedication ceremony to unveil the
Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center located on Ford Island in Honolulu. The facility, named for the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye in January 2013, is the last phase of a campus environment that will house 15 NOAA offices with more than 700 staff, and most of the NOAA assets in Hawai'i.

Acting NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan attended the dedication ceremony along with the late senator's wife, Mrs. Irene Hirano Inouye, members of the Hawai'i Congressional delegation, as well as Navy, state, and local representatives. Senator Inouye passed away in December 2012, after a distinguished, nearly 50-year career in the United States Senate.

In her remarks, Dr. Sullivan stressed the fact that Senator Inouye was a great friend to NOAA and a great advocate for Hawaiians and our country's natural resources. The late Senator Inouye, with support from the Hawai'i Congressional delegation and the state of Hawai'i, led the effort to redevelop Ford Island and secure the necessary funding for a world class facility to support NOAA's science, service and stewardship mission in the Pacific Region. The $331 million project was partially funded under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act and represents the largest capital facility project in NOAA's history.

In January 2013, the facility was named in Senator Inouye's honor, in recognition of his significant contribution to ocean and environmental issues and his steadfast support for the construction of the campus.

The center is a 35-acre parcel on federally owned property and combines new facilities with the historic preservation of four buildings culminating into a campus which is environmentally sustainable, state of the art, and Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) Gold Certified. Specifically, the project involves the renovation and construction of a new central office and laboratory facility, logistics warehouse and seawater facility, port facility, and piers for both large and small vessels.

NOAA anticipates the new facility will save more than $3 million per year in operating and other costs by eliminating office leases, lower energy costs, and consolidation of information technology infrastructure. The site location inspired the designers to feature three key natural resources - water, wind, and sun - into a high-performance facility well adapted to its site, climate and culture.