Hackers Were Quietly Rescuing Climate Data During Trump's Inauguration

January 23rd 2017

When President Donald Trump took the oath of office on Friday, roughly 60 hackers were frantically scraping climate science data from U.S. government websites.

In a six-hour-workshop, computer science students, IT professionals, and other volunteer hackers worked with scientists from California universities to save hundreds of data sets on fossil fuels, solar power, and other climate research hosted on government servers, Quartz reported.

The event was hosted at the University of California, Los Angeles, and put together by information science graduate students.

The hackathon was one of many data recovery initiatives held across the country since the election. These projects date back to mid-December, when Kansas meteorologist and climate journalist Eric Holthaus tweeted a spreadsheet inviting scientists to input their work and reported on the issue on the Washington Post.

Much of the research has already been stored outside the country.

The material is being uploaded on datarefuge.org, thanks to pre-inaugural hack-a-thons and the Canadian data company Page Freezer. Page Freezer CEO Michael Riedyk told Quartz he offered to store the research on European servers Friday evening free of charge after he caught wind of the project via a Wired article.

“We built this huge archiving cloud that crawls websites to preserve them, either to comply with regulation or for legal protection,” Riedyk said. “I thought, wow, we have that complete infrastructure in place.”

Using software to monitor government websites pre- and post-inauguration (and flagging any changes that have been made), Riedyk's team's was close to completing the storage effort on Saturday, he told Quartz.

"Over the weekend, we collected hundreds of thousands of the most important web pages related to climate change," Riedyk told ATTN: over email Tuesday. "Since the article came out, we received many emails of support and requests to add other sites to the list, and so we keep adding them."

The climate hackers are working to make the information available to the public over the course of Trump's first 100 days in office, Bethany Wiggins, the University of Pennsylvania's director of environmental humanities, told Quartz.

“We’ll be letting people know what the changes exactly are," Wiggin, who helped organize a recent Penn climate data rescue, explained. "We hope to produce a weekly report on changes."

The task at hand is monumental, and groups across the country continue to convene to work saving information, with a New York City hacking event scheduled for early February.

This story, first published 1/23/2017, was updated 1/24/2017 to include a comment from Page Freezer CEO Michael Riedyk.

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