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Commerce Data Service: Using Weather Data to Protect Lives and Property

Editor's Note: The newly launched Commerce Data Service works with the 12 bureaus that make up the Commerce Department to identify opportunities to maximize their data to better serve the public. Among the Service's priorities is developing data visualizations that simply and effectively explain complex data sets. This will be the first in a series of blogs from the Commerce Data Service showcasing their work. Check out

Tornados, hail and other severe weather events cause billions of dollars of damage each year. The chance these events will occur and the severity of impact varies dramatically across the country. The impact of hail can range from having no discernible impact to causing millions of dollars of damage in a community.

The severity of hail is often times associated with the diameter of the hail ball, which in turn may inflict varying amounts of damage to property and crops and injury to people. Certain areas of the Midwest often experience baseball-sized hail requiring different planning than, say, the pea-sized hail, which is more widespread across the country. But where can one find data and how can it be used to better plan and prepare for it?

Hail Risk, 2005-2015

In collaboration with the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) within the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Commerce Data Service has developed a data visualization tutorial showing how to access and use Severe Weather Data Inventory (SWDI). The SWDI database is a high value data source with application for everything from earth science research to emergency management planning to insurance risk management. It can be mashed up and combined with a wide range of data to produce useful insights.

To get started with the SWDI tutorial, visit or the Github project at

If you have question, feel free to reach out to the Commerce Data Service at

By Jeff Chen, Chief Data Scientist, DOC, and Tyrone Grandison, Deputy Chief Data Officer, DOC


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