Climate Data for Citizen Scientists

Guest post by Kelly O'Day from Climate Charts & Graphs

I find that charting climate trend data helps me to understand the interplay of climate factors more effectively than just reading an article or post . As an example, using online monthly climate agency data I made this chart to help me understand how the long term temperature trends are affected by major volcanic eruptions and  El Nino - La Nina events. Click image to  enlarge

You can visit this link to learn more about this chart. 

Building this chart helped me to learn about volcanoes, their release of aerosols to the stratosphere with resulting reduction of sunlight transmission through the atmosphere. I could clearly see the downward impact major volcanoes had on the GISS temperature anomalies as well as the impacts  El Nino (upward) - La Nina (downward) have on the GISS temperature anomalies.

Climate Agency Data

Climate agencies provide a great service by putting their data files online, however, the organization and format of these files often makes it challenging for citizen scientists to compare series. To see the problem, look at the different formats for the 5 major global land & ocean temperature anomaly series:  GISS, RSS, Hadley, NOAA, UAH.  It takes considerable data manipulation to consolidate these 5 anomaly series into a single file.

A citizen scientists who wants to compare global SSTA and Nino34 trends has to take several steps:

  1. Find online data files – even with Google this can take time. Wood For Trees and Climate Explorer  are two great resources to start your search
  2. Download files
  3. Merge 2 files to get data  into a usable format – source files have different formats
  4. Perform analysis
  5. Reach conclusions

Steps 1-3 can be very time consuming, so many users just don’t bother checking out their ideas, rather, they may rely on climate blog comments or guesswork.

There should be a better way!

Climate Time Series File  (CTS.csv) Online

I have consolidated 18 monthly climate time series into a single online Climate Time Series file (CTS.csv). Here’s a snap shot of the first 6 rows of the CTS.csv file. The data extends from 1880 until the most recent month. Click image to enlarge


Several series do not start until 1950 or 1979. These series have NA (not available) entries until the series start.

This page lists the source agency and data links for each of the climate data series.

How can CTS.csv Help Do-It-Yourself Citizen Climate Scientists?

My goal is to make it as easy as possible for citizen climate scientists to:

By having these climate time series in a single csv file, R and/ or Excel users can analyze up-to-date climate data in a convenient form. I update this file monthly as the climate agencies release their latest data.

Data & RClimate Scripts Are All Open Book

I have a family of R scripts to retrieve, analyze, chart climate data; I call them RClimate scripts. All of the RClimate scripts that I use to produce the CTS.csv are available online at this link. Climate agency data links are available here and they are included in the RClimate.txt function for each series.

I plan to add more series to the file. Please feel free to make suggestions or comments. Check for updates on both my RClimate scripts and CTS.csv at Climate Charts & Graphs.

Posted by D Kelly O on Thursday, 10 February, 2011

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