New web portal makes finding climate data a breeze

A new web portal is now open that allows anyone to access weather observations from over 6000 locations in B.C. UVic’s Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium (PCIC) launched the portal on Oct. 24th as a means of providing easily accessible weather and climate data from as far back as 1872.

“The achievement is bringing together all of these networks into a single location,” says Francis Zwiers, director at the PCIC. “In the past an engineer might have been aware that there was data from Environment Canada or other sources, but may not know how to get that. Now they can get that easily.”

However, it is not simply engineers who will find this portal invaluable; students who are engaged in the issue of growing climate change and storms will find it useful too.

“If you’re engaged in those topics, you can help to inform yourself by using our product,” says Zwiers. “Though, you’d have to be an aficionado to be interested.”

The information is laid out on a map of B.C. By accessing the Provincial Climate Data Set Portal onthe PCIC site, anyone can simply highlight an area of interest with a polygon tool in the top right corner and find data on any climate variable under 14 different networks. Users have the option to filter results and can choose to do so by temperature, precipitation, humidity, wind — even soil moisture.

Teaching opportunities also arise out of the portal. Zwiers suggests that “[students of] math and stats, where they might need a handy source of data to play with, or ocean sciences and topography, where they actually teach climate,” will make use of the not-for-profit collaborative project.

In a more professional setting, the PCIC portal puts wind in the sails of people like David Atkinson, who is building models to predict future climates. Atkinson, a geography professor at UVic, focuses his study on storm surges and impacts, such as the recent Hurricane Sandy.

For Atkinson, “having data, actual observed data from ground locations, is golden.” He‘s appreciative of the PCIC efforts.

“This kind of stuff is a huge amount of work to pull together,” says Atkinson, “so it’s a really great thing that PCIC has done as a general service to everybody.”

Funding for this project comes mainly from an endowment from the Provincial Government to the University in 2008, that set up the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions. Zwiers points out that the university provides more than just money, it provides use of buildings and user assistance around campus as well.

“It’s still a UVic entity,” says Denis Helm of UVic Communications.

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