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Get a White Christmas and Prosperous New Year -- with Data

You can find out where you need to go to enjoy a white Christmas, and also access more than 40,000 data sets from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

There are plenty of ways that algorithms are impacting your winter holidays. Maybe you are watching the weather forecast to figure out the best time to make a dash to the mall. Perhaps you got gift recommendations from an online retail site. Then that online store is using a complex logistics system to ensure your packages are shipped to you and arrive before the holiday. Maybe the traditional retailer you visited used machine learning to decide what inventory to stock -- just the right number of Imaginext Fisher-Price Super Friends Transforming Batmobile R/C (or maybe they weren't able to stock enough of these). Perhaps you are using a navigation app on your phone to figure out how to get through the traffic congestion faster and just get away from these crowds.

Machine learning is all around us, especially as consumers.

Here's one more way you can use machine learning this holiday season. The U.S. Department of Commerce has released a map of the continental U.S. showing the likelihood of having a white Christmas in any geography in the country. So if you are feeling less than festive but know that a little snow will help you conjure those holiday spirits, this map will tell you where you likely need to go.

Here are the likeliest places: Minnesota, Maine, Upstate New York, the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, just about anywhere in Idaho, and the Rockies or the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The map shows the historic probability of there being at least 1 inch of snow on the ground on December 25 based on the most recent (1981 to 2010) U.S. Climate Normals from NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration)'s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI).

The release of this map comes at a great time to highlight one of the many things you can do with data sets that are freely available from the U.S. government.

More enterprises today are incorporating external data sets into their organization's analytics and machine learning efforts. A big source of free external data is the U.S. Department of Commerce, which in recent years has acted as a clearinghouse for more than 40,000 data sets available via this data catalog. Maybe your organization has used one of these data sets or is planning to look at what might be useful to use in 2020.

The data catalog includes data sets from the Bureau of Industry and Security, Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Census Bureau, Economics and Statistics Administration, and U.S. Patents and Trademarks Office, among others.

The Commerce Department also maintains a web page of developer resources that include access to the bureau's APIs and a commerce.gov content API, open data tutorials created by the commerce Data Usability Project, plus free course materials that you can download from the Commerce Data Academy.

After your  December holidays are over, whether you sought out the snow or decided to travel to a warmer, snow-free climate, maybe your New Year's resolutions hould be to check out what data sets and APIs are available to help your organization in 2020 and beyond.