What is climate data and how to obtain it?

Climate data is information on a certain location’s temperature, atmospheric conditions, precipitation amounts, and seasonal weather trends. Climate data is comparable to meteorological data, but it focuses on longer-term patterns, such as the average temperature in a nation over the last decade, rather than the last week.

How is climate data collected?

Climate data collecting employs a variety of sources to capture various condition information. Climate data sets are created by meteorologists and climate scientists using sensors from all around the world. Different sensors collect different types of data. Powerful thermometers, for example, can compute the average temperature across a geographical area, whereas precipitation monitors detect rainfall.

How to obtain climate data?

  • Weather stations

Weather station observations give the most reliable climatic data. Weather stations, on the other hand, are costly to set up and operate. As a result, the number of weather stations is restricted, particularly in third-world nations. Weather stations are generally positioned in regions with easy access near towns or valleys, even in affluent nations. Climatic data from weather stations are not well represented for climate conditions of forest stands or plots. As a result, climate models are required to create climatic data for comprehensive coverage.

  • Interpolated climate data

Spatially interpolated climate data obtained using various interpolation algorithms can offer climatic data for the whole coverage area. The interpolation is based on weather station readings. The accuracy of the climate data is determined by the density of weather stations as well as the performance of the climate model used to produce the interpolations. Most interpolated climate data are supplied at certain spatial resolutions, which impact the accuracy of the climate data for specific places, particularly in mountains, where climate varies greatly within small regions owing to elevation variations. Interpolated climate data is available in a variety of climate datasets. WorldClim, PRISM, CRU, and ClimateNA are among the most extensively utilized.

  • Climate models

Climate models are sets of differential equations based on fundamental laws of physics, fluid motion, and chemistry. They are used for a number of objectives, ranging from studying the dynamics of the climate system to projecting future climate.

The complexity of climate models varies:

  • A straightforward radiant heat transmission model considers the planet to be a single point and averages outgoing energy.
  • This can be stretched vertically and/or horizontally (radiative-convective models).
  • Last but not least, global climate models that include the atmosphere, ocean, and sea ice (coupled) can resolve all of the equations for radiative exchange and mass and energy transfer (GCMs).
  • Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP)

The goal of CMIP, which is coordinated by the World Climate Research Program, is to compare models from more than 30 groups and establish benchmarks for all of them. CMIP is a framework for climate model experiments that allows scientists to examine, validate, and develop GCMs in a systematic manner. In contrast to the planned IPCC sixth assessment report (AR6) in 2021, which will contain new CMIP6 models, the IPCC fifth assessment report (AR5) from 2013 featured climate models from CMIP5.


Major sources of climate data

NASA Earth Observatory

NASA Earth Observatory is a NASA internet publication platform that was established in 1999. It is the primary source of satellite images and other scientific information on the climate and environment that NASA makes available to the general public.

Areas of focus for the observatory comprise of:

  • Understanding how aerosols impact the world’s energy balance, a major source of uncertainty in anticipating climate change, is crucial.
  • Taking on the major level of variation in future predictions of climate change, air quality, and severe weather is cloud, convection, and precipitation.
  • Mass Change: Providing drought evaluation and forecasts, as well as linked water usage planning for agricultural and natural hazard response.
  • Understanding climatic changes that affect food and agriculture, habitation, and natural resources through solving unanswered issues concerning the fluxes of carbon, water, nutrients, and energy within and between ecosystems and the atmosphere, ocean, and Earth.
  • Surface Deformation and Change: Quantifying models of sea-level and landscape change brought on by climate change, hazard projections, and catastrophe impact assessments, encompassing dynamics of earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, glaciers, groundwater, and Earth’s interior.

European Space Agency Climate Change Initiative (CCI)

By combining prior mission data, the European Space Agency Climate Change Initiative (CCI) harnesses 40 years of satellite observations.

ESA’s Climate Change Initiative (CCI) creates a set of satellite data recordings of important components of the climate system known as Essential Climate Variables (ECVs). Scientists utilize ECVs to investigate climate drivers, interactions, and feedbacks, as well as reservoirs, tipping points, and energy, water, and carbon fluxes. The evidence foundation needed to comprehend climate change and make future projections, which motivate international action, has been significantly enriched by these climate-quality datasets.

Areas of focus

  • Aerosols
  • biomass
  • clouds
  • fires
  • greenhouse gases
  • glaciers
  • ice sheets
  • land cover
  • lakes
  • ocean color
  • ozone permafrost
  • salinity
  • sea levels
  • snow
  • soil moisture
  • temperature
  • water vapor

UNEP Environmental Data Explorer

The authorized source for data sets utilized by UNEP and its partners in the Global Environment Outlook (GEO) report and other integrated environment assessments is the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP’s) Environmental Data Explorer.

With over 500 distinct variables available in its online database, which includes geographic data sets (maps) and statistics for national, subregional, regional, and global levels.

Area of focus

  • Freshwater,
  • Population,
  • Forests,
  • Emissions,
  • Climate,
  • Disasters,
  • Health
  • GDP

Data can be displayed on-the-fly as maps, graphs, data tables or downloaded in various formats.

The activity of UNEP involves analyzing global, regional, and national environmental conditions and trends, establishing international and national environmental instruments, and improving institutions for sensible environmental management. Climate change, catastrophes and conflicts, ecosystem management, environmental governance, chemicals and waste, resource efficiency, and the environment under review are the program’s seven major subject themes. The UNEP’s overall commitment to sustainability is seen in all of its activities.

US Government Open Data Initiative

The US government open data project has 377 climate datasets in total. The US Climate Resiliency toolbox streamlines the process of constructing resilient communities in order to tackle the challenge of a changing climate.

Some areas of focus:

  • Arctic
  • coastal flooding
  • ecosystem vulnerability
  • hazards
  • severe weather
  • tribal nations
  • water resources

FAO GeoNetwork

The FAO GeoNetwork connects users to interactive maps, satellite images, and associated geographical resources provided by FAO and its partners over the Internet. Its goal is to increase accessibility to and use of geographical data and information.

FAO encourages multiple strategies for sustainable development and promotes strategic planning in agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and food security through this website.

Maps, notably those obtained from satellite data, are powerful communication tools that play an essential role in the work of many different types of users:

  • Decision makers
  • GIS Experts
  • Spatial Analysts

NASA’s Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC)

SEDAC, NASA’s Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center, provides data and indicators on population, infrastructure, land use, poverty, natural resources, disaster risk, climate effects and susceptibility, environmental pollution, and international environmental accords.

SEDAC provides statistics and indicators on population, infrastructure, land use, poverty, natural resources, disaster risk, climatic effects and susceptibility, environmental pollution, and international environmental accords, among other things. SEDAC also provides interactive visualization and query tools to aid in research, applications, and decision-making, as well as cutting-edge mapping clients and mobile apps.

  • Deforestation
  • drought
  • environmental performance index
  • human footprint
  • species richness
  • sea level rise impacts
  • sustainability index

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), headquartered in Paris (FR), is an international organization comprising 38 nations dedicated to democracy and the market economy.

The OECD’s library of climate-related statistics compiles the most recent worldwide data and indicators on the environmental, economic, financial, and social aspects of climate change. The repository addresses the rising demand for reliable data to assist governments in developing and implementing effective policies to attain net-zero emissions and contribute to a green recovery.

  • Forest resources
  • greenhouse gases
  • green households
  • population
  • waste
  • water withdrawal
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