Azavea Wins SBIR Grant to Develop Web-based Hyper Local Climate Impact Assessment Modeling Service

Azavea Wins SBIR Grant to Develop Web-based Hyper Local Climate Impact Assessment Modeling Service

Easily accessible modeling tools will help local decision-makers proactively manage disaster risk, ensure access to safe water and food, and strengthen preparedness and response strategies.

Philadelphia, PA, April 28, 2014 – Azavea, a geospatial analysis (GIS) software development company, was awarded a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant of $225,000 by the U.S. Department of Energy to develop an online local climate impact assessment tool.  In partnership with The Nature Conservancy, Azavea’s Phase I development work will focus on a prototype for a single city that will support fast calculation of climate impacts based on user-input.

Current reports of the potential risks and impacts from climate change are useful but they are often presented as an abstract set of impacts – like sea level rise or weather volatility – that will occur at a national or global scale.  However, most people find it difficult to relate to abstract threats or concerns.  Rather, it is easier to understand impacts that will affect us in our local community.  This project aims to create online software tools that will enable local planners, designers and decision-makers to better understand and address the climatic risks in their local communities.  These local impact risks include extreme weather events, regional food yields, water supply, fire risk, and urban energy demand specific to their communities.

Contemporary climate change models are known as General Circulation Models (GCMs).  GCMs use quantitative methods to simulate the interactions of the atmosphere, land surface, oceans, and sea ice over past or future time periods.  The GCM results delivered by national and global climate modeling projects are very large data sets.  Processing the data and enabling its use at a local level is a computationally intense endeavor, particularly if the objective is an interactive experience for local decision-makers.  This initial Department of Energy research grant will enable Azavea to solve the technology problems required to make location-specific climate risk assessment possible. 

Azavea has partnered with The Nature Conservancy to develop the project.  The Conservancy has both developed their own climate data portal and has experience working with the GCM data sets and their input and feedback will be critical to successful research effort.  Azavea will leverage and enhance GeoTrellis, the company’s open source high-speed geoprocessing framework, to support interactive climate impact modeling.  While Azavea’s Phase I development work will focus on a single geographic location and a pre-loaded selection of climate and socioeconomic data, once a prototype is complete, Azavea will be eligible to apply for Phase II funding, which will enable scaling of the application to nationwide coverage.

“As a B Corporation, Azavea is dedicated to working on projects that will have a positive civic and social impact. This research grant is a great fit alongside our land conservation, urban environment and ecosystems efforts.  It also builds on our work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, The Nature Conservancy and urban forestry modeling tools funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  I’m really excited about this opportunity to leverage our experience with processing big geospatial data sets and extend our GeoTrellis framework to support work with climate data,” said Robert Cheetham, founder and President of Azavea.

This project is supported by the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program of the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Award Number (DE-SC0011303).

About Azavea – Azavea is a certified B Corporation that applies geographic data and technology for civic and social impact while advancing the state-of-the-art through research.  Find out more at

If you would like more information about Azavea or to schedule an interview with Robert Cheetham, Azavea CEO and President, please contact Amy Trahey at (215) 558-6184 or e-mail