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3/25/2011
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Tsunami, Earthquake Data Added To Data.gov

The federal Web site has added 112 new data sets in the last week, including some on the disaster in Japan, significant earthquakes in the United States, and airborne radiation levels.

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Recent global events in Japan seem to have spurred the addition of new data sets to the federal data transparency site.

Data about tsunamis and earthquake activity as well as a new map interface released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that gives a view into radioactivity levels in the air have been posted on Data.gov as part of 112 new data sets made available on the site in the last week.

Japan was hit by a massive earthquake on March 11, followed by a tsunami that destroyed coastal areas in the north of the country. An explosion at the country's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station followed the next day, causing radiation to escape into the environment and atmosphere. The clean-up and recovery effort as well as the threat of radiation continues.

Data sets containing information tracking both earthquake and tsunami activity around the globe are now available on Data.gov, including RSS feeds for tsunamis in the Indian Ocean and Hawaii; a data set about all of the significant earthquakes in the United States between 1568 and 2004; and digital elevation models of coastal areas in the United States that could be affected by a tsunami, such as California and North Carolina.

An interactive map for monitoring radiation in the air also has been posted on the site courtesy of the EPA.

RadNet is a national network of monitoring stations that collect air, precipitation, drinking water, and milk samples for analysis of radioactivity. The RadNet Map Interface for Near-Real-Time Radiation Monitoring Data posted on Data.gov collects data from monitoring stations Radnet has in U.S. states and presents it for public consumption. The EPA uses RadNet data to decide if action must be taken to protect public health.

To date there have been more than 380,000 data sets posted to Data.gov, part of the Obama administration's Open Government Directive to be more transparent with information and its activities.

However, funding for the site and others the White House has launched in the last couple of years to foster transparency could be in jeopardy, according to an open-government advocacy group.

The Sunlight Foundation said in a blog post that the Electronic Government Fund, which provides money for open-data sites, could be cut from $34 million to $2 million for the remainder of this fiscal year if a bill before the Senate is passed.

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