Open Radiation Data for Germany
Quick summary: Germany has an official radiation monitoring system. Since May 2011, the radiation data acquired by that system is available to citizens who ask for a personal account. Starting on June 18, 2011, this data is openly available via Cosm.com.
Current status (Sat, Jun 18, 2011)
I created one data feed for each of the ~1750 sensor stations at pachube.com. Two-hour-values have been pushed to these feeds for a first time. Regular updates are not yet set up.
Follow me on twitter at @MarianSteinbach to receive status updates.
How you can access the raw data
Here ist my list of feeds at pachube.com, which currently consists completely of the german radiation data:
Here is one example feed with the data of one station:
All feeds are tagged with the same list of tags, so you can use these to find the feeds via the Cosm API. The tags used are:
Be aware that more feeds might appear if the sensor network grows. Each sensor has a unique id which is also contained in the feed title on Cosm.
In order to access radiation values from these feeds programmatically, you will have to get involved with the Cosm API, which is quite easy to use. However you need a user account and optionally an API key first. Then, using the following URLs, you can for example access the feed for Hagen as either XML or JSON data.
The API documentation explains what you can get out of that.
The actual values are contained in the “datastreams” section of the API response. Each feed has two streams, one with the id “2h” and one with “24h”. Read more about that under “Reading intervals and update frequencies” below.
The API allows you to access the datastreams directly, using URLs like these:
Where the data comes from, originally
Where radiation is measured and how
The BfS has a list of sensor stations (Messstellenliste) which is grouped by federal state.
All sensors are place in a height of 1.3 meters above ground. The sensors only measure gamma radiation.
Units and what they mean
The values represent gamma radiation equivalent doses. The are reported in μSv/h (micro-Sievert per hour). One micro-Sievert is a millionth of a Sievert. The equivalent dose roughly tells how much damage to the body is caused by gamma radiation in a certain time frame. Usual gamma dose rate values in Germany are between 0.08 and 0.18 μSv/h.
Why values are changing over time
The actual dose rate is affected by several natural causes. Rain, for example, usually causes radiation in the atmospere to rise. A ground covered with snow, on the other hand, lowers the readings.
Reading intervals and update frequencies
The original sensor data is acquired by the BfS in intervals of two hours, where readings are average/mean values of that two hour time span. Values from the two-hour-means are published to the BfS server in intervals of 6 hours. Published two-hour-readings are not verified.
Additionally, The BfS conducts verification on all readings to insure that values are correct. Verified and corrected values are published as 24 hour means.
Availability of historical values
The BfS publishes exactly 24 hours worth of 2-hours data and 7 days of 24-hour data.
I have started mirroring 2-hour-values on June 14, 2011 and since then pushed data to Cosm.
What can be done with that data
This data can now be integrated into all kinds of radiation monitoring applications, such like Safecast. In fact the Safecast team is informed about the availability of the feeds and will hopefully integrate them into their app. And Cosm, the data hub for the internet of things, has a number of apps ready for you to start playing with.
But, as it’s always the case with Open Data, nobody knows beforehand what people will eventually do with it. And that’s the beauty of it. Whatever you do with it, please be aware that radiation for most people is a sensitive subject. If you draw conclusioins from the numbers, make sure that you are correct and double-check with people who know about this stuff before blowing whistles.
I’d like to thank the very kind staff of the Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz (BfS) for dealing with me and others personally to provide us access to their raw data. And without the folks at Cosm, there wouldn’t be a platform nor an API to access that data. Usman Haque and Ed Borden of Cosm and their team are really generous (by donating the resources and an unpaid unlimited account) and tremendously responsive when it comes to answering my questions.
Your questions and feedback
If you need additional information, please contact me in one of the ways offered on the right hand side above, or reach me at @MarianSteinbach.