Integrating natural and social sciences data in GIS

Climate and society are coevolving in a manner that may place vulnerable populations at greater risk to weather and climate stresses. Understanding societal risks and vulnerabilities to weather hazards and climate change requires integration of georeferenced information from physical and social sciences, including weather and climate data, information about natural and built environments, demographic characteristics, as well as social and behavioral processes. NCAR’s GIS program is working towards developing research frameworks and spatial methods for integration of diverse, multidisciplinary datasets, which are both quantitative and qualitative and exist at different spatial and temporal scales.  Current projects in this area of research are focused on extreme heat and human health, as well as on drought and water use.

Improving spatial accuracy, usability of weather and climate models

As a national center, NCAR aims to provide atmospheric data and models outputs to the broader community. Our GIS program develops methods and tools that facilitate the use of NCAR models in a GIS. We work with industry and international standards organizations to improve interoperability of common atmospheric data formats, as well as develop tools and applications to increase usability of models and their spatial accuracy. The Climate Change GIS data portal provides GIS-compatible user access to CCSM AR4 global and downscaled U.S. simulations, as well as to the data products that show climate trends and anomalies. To facilitate interdisciplinary research and decision-making on the scales of weather events, the GIS program ensured compatibility of WRF outputs, available in NetCDF format, with the ArcGIS software. A pilot project explored use of web services and web GIS technologies with regard to distribution of WRF and CCSM model outputs. Methods of conversion between sphere-based models and ellipsoid-based data for GIS analysis are being investigated to determine the full potential of the sphere-ellipsoidal shift.  We are investigating the impact this shift may have upon the output positional accuracy for numeric weather models. More information can be found in PROJECTS pages. Visit our DATA page to download available GIS-compatible model outputs.

Community and capacity building

Significant progress has been made in the past several years in linking GIS with atmospheric and related geosciences sciences and their datasets. There is growing interest among practitioners in GIS compatible weather and climate data.  Additionally, there is growing recognition among researchers, operational meteorologists, and university-level educators that GIS is a useful tool for spatial analysis, interdisciplinary research and science communication. Building an “Atmo-GIS” community and participating in GIS education at the science-society interface have been important components the GIS program. Community workshops on “GIS in Weather, Climate and Impacts” have been instrumental in building collaborations, defining research agendas for both NCAR GIS program and the larger AtmoGIS community, and addressing issues in GI science, data management, and data discovery.  Community efforts in developing an Atmospheric Data Model for GIS enabled many research projects, NWS operations, national and international collaborations and adopting netDCF data format by Esri. GIS-focused education and capacity building has been included in a number of NCAR/UCAR workshops, colloquia and hands-on training, and demonstrations.  Training materials focus on integration of climate science and data with traditional GIS data and spatial analysis to facilitate interdisciplinary research and build capacity for decision-making.