GIS Tutorial for Atmospheric Sciences

 Section 1 and Section 2 now available

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.  

REQUIRED SOFTWARE : ArcGIS 10.0 or higher

To access the course materials please REGISTER HERE  or SIGN IN

Already SIGNED IN? Go to download page for Section 1.

Section 1 – Basic GIS Fundamentals

Section 2 – Intermediate GIS Functionality

Exercise 1 - Exploring ArcMap and ArcCatalog   

Use Case - Tornado tracks

  • Opening and Exploring ArcMap
  • Adding Data to ArcMap
  • Working with Attribute Data in ArcMap
  • Navigating and Using ArcCatalog


 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 in ArcMap
  • Exploring Raster Datasets
  • Adding Web Services to ArcMap
 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
  • 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

  • Adding netCDF climate model data to ArcMap as a point layer
  • Adding netCDF as a table view
  • Graphing in ArcMap
  • Adding netCDF as a raster layer


Exercise 4 - Cartographic Mapping

Use Case - Superstorm (Blizzard) of 1993

  • Preparing the ArcMap Document Data Frame and Layers to Create a Map
  • Using Layout View to Design the Appearance of the Map
  • Adding Elements to the Map
  • Disseminating and Sharing Your Map
 Exercise 4 - Difference between Representative Concentration Pathways

Use Case - Mapping climate under varying emission scenarios

  • Working with multidimensional data as a raster
  • Working with the swipe tool
  • Animate over time


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 Information of a Layer


Exercise 5 - Working with Python

Use Case -Using ModelBuilder and Python to anutomate data generation

  • Working with the Python window in ArcMap
  • Building models with ModelBuilder
  • Customize Pythin in IDE



If you have any questions or comments please email us at


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

Jennifer Boehnert - National Center for Atmospheric Research