Speeding Greenhouse Gas Data Access Using IMPACT Capabilities

IMPACT Unofficial
4 min readMar 26, 2024

On December 4, 2023, NASA and partner agencies announced the launch of the U.S. Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Center portal. The primary aim of the US GHG Center is to expedite the use of Earth science data related to greenhouse gases by offering openly available information in a central location. The center expands the landscape of open science by providing site visitors with free access to methane, carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gas datasets coupled with powerful analysis tools and documentation. Through “Data Insight” narratives authored by GHG Center team scientists, users can also gain perspectives on how data was collected and can be interpreted. Anyone from research scientists to the public can benefit from the content in the US GHG Center.

Screenshot of a data insight on the U.S. GHG Center portal
Screenshot of a data insight on the U.S. GHG Center portal

In less than 6 months, the NASA-led collaboration with scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) resulted in the launch of the Center portal. By centralizing access to curated, trusted datasets from multiple sources, users now have an enhanced capability to explore and compare greenhouse gas emissions and flux data.

A team within IMPACT was and continues to be instrumental in building and supporting the US GHG Center portal. This IMPACT GHG Center group is responsible for the design, site development, implementation, maintenance, and daily operations of the US GHG Center portal. This post provides perspectives on the IMPACT effort and the technical aspects of the portal.

The portal was rapidly built by re-using VEDA (Visualization, Exploration, and Data Analysis), an innovative platform that empowers researchers to explore and analyze Earth science data in the cloud. The VEDA system was constructed to unify information and expertise from diverse domains and to create a cohesive platform that fosters collaboration, educates, assists decision makers and drives novel research. Data visualization capabilities and insight narratives developed by experts are an inherent part of VEDA which also provides hub access with streamlined optimized datasets in a dedicated cloud computing environment.

The carefully selected GHG datasets in the portal, complete with standardized metadata, consolidates information from various sources, eliminating the need for users to navigate to multiple agency and organization websites. The user-friendly data visualization tools empower site visitors to quickly and freely explore the data. Moreover, the scientific community is encouraged to contribute feedback and ideas, ensuring continuous growth and optimization of the center’s functionality.

Screenshot of a data insight on the U.S. GHG Center portal
Screenshot of a data insight on the U.S. GHG Center portal

Both VEDA and the US GHG Center platform are built for open science. Team member Jonas Sølvsteen explains how the portal presents datasets according to FAIR principles: findable, accessible, interoperable, and reproducible, facilitating transparent and efficient access to reliable information.

Datasets can be found via the portal and also through the combined catalog, which implements the highly accessible and interoperable Spatio-Temporal Asset Catalog (STAC) specification. The data is stored in cloud-optimized geospatial data formats, which means that the same, original data can be visualized on the data and information website as well as loaded directly from cloud storage in Amazon Web Services and is optimized for access of relevant portions of the data in space and time.

Converting datasets into cloud-optimized formats and storage was necessary in most instances. Documentation on each dataset’s transformation and validation of the resulting cloud data is available to users on the US GHG Center’s documentation site. The center aims to realize a future where original data providers offer all datasets in cloud-native formats, making inclusion of new data in the GHG Center even easier.

For authorized scientific teams and users, the US GHG Center furnishes data science tools through a JupyterHub platform, allowing access to Python, R, or QGIS web browser environments. This access is facilitated in the same cloud and region, ensuring swift and effective data retrieval. Users with a JupyterHub account can explore, analyze, conduct research, and enhance their understanding of scientific data presented in cloud-friendly formats. The provided code and supplementary information facilitate individual exploration and analysis within the cloud environment.

Team lead Deborah Smith shares how the portal was built to meet the needs of many types of users:

Anyone can take a look at the various datasets and the data insights (stories with visualizations aimed at a general audience to introduce various GHG-related topics and data). A plain language introduction is provided for every dataset to aid in understanding what is displayed.

Unraveling the complexities of greenhouse gas concentrations in the Earth’s atmosphere requires expertise and often involves navigating numerous information sources and discerning the most relevant datasets for informed decision-making. Additionally, envisaging potential future scenarios is an integral part of understanding and addressing these complexities. Until recently, this task lay squarely in the realm of experts who knew where to search, which data repositories held the most reliable information, and how to extract meaningful insights.

By democratizing access to crucial data and serving as a centralized access point, the US GHG Center serves as a gateway to information dispersed across U.S. government agencies. This initiative not only simplifies the quest for data but also streamlines the process of accessing comprehensive and credible information on greenhouse gas trends, fostering more informed decisions and strategic planning for our planet’s future.

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IMPACT Unofficial

This is the unofficial blog of the Interagency Implementation and Advanced Concepts Team.