Azavea Wins $1.5 Million to Develop Web-based Climate Change Impact Assessment Service

Azavea Wins $1.5 Million to Develop Web-based Climate Change Impact Assessment Service

Accessible climate change analysis 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, December 3, 2015 – Azavea, a geospatial analysis (GIS) software company, was awarded a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant of $1.5 million by the U.S. Department of Energy.  It follows a Phase I SBIR grant of $225,000 also awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy to build a prototype for the Climate Impact Assessment Service, a web-based interactive local climate modeling prototype, for a single city.  Under the Phase II grant, Azavea will expand the prototype to support proactive climate change adaptation, management, and mitigation strategies in communities around the world.  

 Reports of the potential risks and impacts from climate change 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 these kinds of abstract threats or concerns.  Rather, it is easier to understand impacts that will affect us in our local community.  The Climate Impact Assessment Service aims to create online software tools that will enable local planners, designers and decision-makers to calculate climate impacts based on concerns specific to 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.  Azavea is therefore leveraging and enhancing GeoTrellis, the company’s high performance geospatial data processing framework, to support interactive climate impact modeling and scaling the application to nationwide coverage.   Azavea also partnered with The Nature Conservancy’s Central Science Team, which has both developed their own climate data portal and has experience working with the GCM data sets.  

Features will include the ability to explore the connection between extreme weather events and a broad range of primary and secondary impacts that may occur as a result.  Factors such as energy usage, water usage, land use classification, watersheds, public health statistics, and transportation networks will be included.  Users will also be able to perform comparisons between multiple cities to provide greater context about what to expect in ten, twenty, or fifty years’ time and how they compare to other locations. 

”We are incredibly excited about this opportunity to build new civic technology for managing the impact of climate change in our communities. This effort builds on our past work with land conservation, urban ecosystems, and green infrastructure, and will enable us to build a new civic technology product that will leverage our ongoing work with high performance computing and user experience design,” said Robert Cheetham, Azavea Founder and CEO.

 The Phase II project will proceed in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy, as well as an expanded advisory team that includes representatives from other climate change-focused organizations such as the City of Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of SustainabilityUniversity of PennsylvaniaICLEI USA, Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, and GoodCompany Ventures.

 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 Karissa Justice at (215) 558-6184 or e-mail