Difficulty: beginner
Estimated Time: 10 minutes

Using JSON(B) in PostgreSQL

This class gives you a quick introduction to using JSON(B) in PostgreSQL. The database has already been started and natural events JSON data (such a wildfire and storms) from EONET (https://eonet.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/) was imported into the database.

Here are the details on the database we are connecting to:

  1. Username: groot
  2. Password: password (same password for the postgres user as well)
  3. A database named: workshop

We will not be going in depth on JSON in PostgreSQL. We are just going to cover enough to whet your appetite.

Final Notes

All the data from the workshop was intentionally chosen from public domain or permissive licenses so that you can use it for commercial and non-commercial purposes. Feel free to download it and play some more at your own pace on your own machine.

I hope you enjoyed learning a little about using JSON in PostgreSQL and can bring that into your work.

And with that, we are finished.

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Quick Intro to JSON(B) in PostgreSQL

Step 1 of 3

JSON(B) Data

Working with JSON(B) data PostgreSQL

PostgreSQL has some quite advance JSON capabilites, especially with the addition of JSONB. The B in JSONB stands for binary, meaning the document is actually stored in binary format. This gives us the ability to index JSONB giving us all the benefits of database indices.

If you just want to store your JSON as a Text Large Object that you only reproduce wholesale and never query, then go ahead and make the column a JSON type, otherwise use JSONB.

A quick note

While it is very convenient to dump arbitrary key-value pairs (or JSON for that matter) into a column, we believe this pattern of handling data should only be used in limited cases. Using these data types for most of your data has several potential drawbacks

  1. JSON data storage can be several orders of magnitude larger given that you are repeating the attributes for every row. And while disks are cheap, retrieving more data from disk will always be a performance penalty. Indexing more data will always be more expensive as well.
  2. You lose the ability of the database to "enforce" that the proper data type, such as integer or float, is being stored in the database
  3. You lose the ability to have the database keep track and manage relations between different data. This can quickly lead to data orphans or data being out of sync

Make sure the benefits of using these datatypes outweighs the cost before using them.

Our recommended pattern is to process the JSON and, as much as possible, store them in a well defined schema. With PostgreSQL you can have the best of both worlds - well defined DB columns with your JSON right next to it. Again you are free to do what you want, but this is our recommendation.

With that, on to the JSONB

Table with JSONB in it.

Let's go ahead and log in to our PostgreSQL database:

psql -U groot -h localhost workshop

Remember that the password is the word 'password'.

Now if you do:

\d natural_events

PostgreSQL will show you a full description of the natural events table. To see all the \ commands in PostgreSQL just do \? (though don't do it right now).

You will see one JSONB column named json_content. Again we are using JSONB because it allows for indexing and search

json_content  | jsonb

You will also see that we created a GIN index on the JSONB column. GIN is the appropriate index type for JSON content.

"natural_events_json_content_indx" gin (json_content)

Querying JSONB

Even though the JSON data is not deeply structured, we can still do interesting queries.

But first you NEED to understand there are two major JSONB operator types - ones that return JSON and other that return text. For example, this operator -> gets a JSON object field by a key and returns JSON:

'{"a": "value"}'::json->'a'  = "value"

while the ->> operator returns values as text.

'{"a": "value"}'::json->>'a'  = value

This matters because when an object is returned as JSON you can pass it to another operator, thereby chaining operations.

For example our JSON has this structure (starting at the top)

    "id": "EONET_4313",
    "link": "https://eonet.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/api/v2.1/events/EONET_4313",
    "title": "Wildfire - Sardinia, Italy ",
    "sources ": [{
        "id ": "PDC ",
        "url ": "http://emops.pdc.org/emops/?hazard_id=95355"
    "categories": [{
        "id": 8,
        "title": "Wildfires"
    "geometries ": [{
        "date ": "2019 - 07 - 31 T18: 09: 00 Z ",
        "type ": "Point ",
        "coordinates ": [8.9824, 40.09573]
    "description": ""

We can use this syntax to get the text value of the title of the data set:

select json_content ->> 'title' from natural_events limit 1;

Or we can use the JSON path operator:

select json_content #>> '{title}' from natural_events limit 1;

But if we change the operator to return JSON you will see the answer is in quotes: to indicate it is JSON:

select json_content #> '{title}' from natural_events limit 1;

Section Wrap up

Now that we have written a basic query and discussed, JSONB let's move on to more exciting queries.