GIS Tutorial for Atmospheric Sciences

Section 1 and Section 2 now available for ArcGIS Desktop and ArcGIS PRO

Geographic information systems (GIS) and other geospatial technologies have become increasingly valuable to the atmospheric sciences, such as weather, climate, hydrometeorology, and for societal impact studies. As use and application of GIS continues to expand in the atmospheric sciences sector, the need to introduce GIS to atmospheric science degree-seeking students has become increasingly important. Additionally, meteorologists, climatologists, and other atmospheric science professionals are seeking more access to and training in these spatial technologies. This is a freely available Geographic Information Systems (GIS) course geared towards weather and climate students and practitioners as a way to meet this need.

This course was developed as a joint partnership between the National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center at the University of North Carolina at Asheville and the GIS Program at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). This course is intended to teach basic Geographic Information Systems (GIS) concepts, methods and terminology using weather and climate case studies.  


ArcGIS 10.0 or higher
ArcGIS Pro

Section 1 – Basic GIS Fundamentals

Section 2 – Intermediate GIS Functionality

Exercise 1 – Introduction to GIS

Use Case - Tornado tracks

  • Opening and Exploring the Interface
  • Adding Data to the map
  • Working with Attribute Data

Exercise 1 - Working with Raster Data

Use Case - Mapping and analyzing extreme rainfall data

  • Accessing raw precipitation data from NOAA
  • Interpolating point data into raster data
  • Creating a departure from normal grid

Exercise 2 - Exploring Spatial Data

Use Case - 2012 drought in Texas

  • Exploring Data Format Types in ArcGIS
  • Working with Vector Data
  • Adding Web Services
  • Exploring Raster Datasets

Exercise 2 - Web Mapping with Climate Data

Use Case - Using ArcGIS Online to access climate data for creating web maps

  • Establishing a free ArcGIS Online account
  • Establishing a free ArcGIS Online account
  • Creating basic web maps with ArcGIS Online

Exercise 3 - Data Symbology and Classification

Use Case - Hurricane Sandy's official track and impacts

  • Symbolizing Qualitative Data
  • Symbolizing Quantitative Data
  • Working with Layer Packages
  • Rendering Raster Datasets

Exercise 3 - Working with climate model simulations

Use Case - Exploring uncertainty in climate models

  • Working with netCDF climate model data to GIS
  • Graphing temporal trends

Exercise 4 - Cartographic Mapping

Use Case - Superstorm (Blizzard) of 1993

  • Preparing the map
  • Using Layout View to Design the Appearance of the Map
  • Adding Elements to the Map
  • Disseminating and Sharing Your Map


Exercise 5 - Coordinate Systems and Map Projections

Use Case -Climate simulations in ArcMap

  • Understanding Basic Coordinate System Information
  • Using ArcToolbox tools to Manually Alter the Coordinate System




If you have any questions or comments please email us at



Jennifer Boehnert - National Center for Atmospheric Research

Greg Dobson - UNC Asheville's National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center

Paige Hoel - National Center for Atmospheric Research