Ensuring future generations’ access to key environmental data

NOAA’s vast information collections are a national treasure of environmental data. We helped make them available for contemporary users and future generations.


NOAA’s Comprehensive Large Array-data Stewardship System (CLASS) consolidates significant portions of the agency’s digital environmental information in a single IT infrastructure. This initiative is designed to preserve data and make them accessible to various communities around the world.
CLASS archives some of NOAA’s largest data collections, including numerous satellite and RADAR campaigns. In addition, selected smaller campaigns are migrating to CLASS as well. All of these data are made available through a common set of interfaces, greatly facilitating user access.

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CLASS’s mission presented two significant technical obstacles. First, the sheer volume of the data created hardware architecture and logistical challenges. Second, the heterogeneity of NOAA’s countless environmental data collections made it challenging to provide common user interfaces and data formats to CLASS users.

At the same time the project was solving these technical problems for extant campaigns, it also had to prepare for large data influxes from newly launched campaigns and balance critical operational and preservation responsibilities.

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What We Did

We supported CLASS for nearly 16 years, starting in 2002. Along the way, we developed key software components, provided technical leadership, and applied our expertise in distributed systems, environmental data processing, and information preservation to CLASS’s architecture and design efforts.



  • Helped found the CLASS system engineering team (SET)
  • Chaired the SET for several years
  • Served as lead software architects
  • Conceived and wrote the CLASS target system architecture
  • Championed the adoption of international information preservation standards
  • Wrote white papers that directly influenced the project’s future course
  • Promoted the move to commodity software and hardware platforms
  • Improved extant search algorithm accuracy
  • Wrote software providing polar search capabilities
  • Enhanced CLASS’s access system for increased user search capabilities
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The Results

CLASS has been a remarkably successful project, providing users highly available access to crucial environmental information and preserving that information for future generations. The project has succeeded despite significant technical challenges, the introduction of new campaigns, and having to address the needs of a large and diverse group of stakeholders.

Our software development efforts significantly enhanced CLASS’s search and access capabilities, and our thought leadership and guidance helped chart the course for CLASS’s evolution.

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