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Portals for Visualizing Climate Change Data (comprehensive)

Portals for visualizing climate change data are interactive websites that allow users to produce maps and plots of projected future climate variables from one or more datasets. 

We highlight three of the most comprehensive, user-friendly and versatile sites below and provide more details about their capabilities and features.  Each covers the contiguous U.S.; features downscaled CMIP5 projections; includes many future climate variables and impact variables; maps, time series, and other visualizations; and allows downloads of summary data (i.e., not the full projection dataset).  

These portals are complimented by more targeted visualization portals, see our comparison table to compare specific features of all these portals.

The Climate Explorer

NOAA and partners

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Summary:

A data viewing tool that was developed as part of the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit, The Climate Explorer creates simple charts and maps without much fuss.

Upside:

Easy-to-use interface; slider on map (see above) clearly shows differences between different scenarios/time periods; many variables available for temperatures and precipitation thresholds

Downside:

Other options for analysis/viewing are limited; charts can only be made for counties; downloadable charts have hard-to-read axis labeling; individual GCMs can’t be visualized; the continuous color-bar for the maps makes it hard to determine local values.

Projection dataset:

CMIP5LOCA (32 models, RCP4.5 & 8.5, 64 projections)

Climate variables:

Temperature (Tmax, Tmin), T thresholds, Precipitation, P thresholds, Dry days

Impact variables:

Agriculture (Growing Season, degree days)

Visualizations:

Maps, Time series, Monthly climographs

Data downloads:

Graph (time-series) data as summarized (annual or monthly, mean/min/max) in the selected graph can be downloaded as a CSV. Map data can’t be downloaded. 

How-to guidance:

Accessed via “About this site” pulldown in upper-right. The “FAQ” is especially helpful.

Don’t miss:

Visualizations of historical climate data from active weather stations can be accessed from the Historical Weather Data and Historical Thresholds buttons at the bottom. While these station data don’t precisely align with the county-level future projection data, they provide some useful context for the future projections (see also Portals for exploring historical climate data)

Other ways to download this projection dataset:

The daily CMIP5 LOCA projection data can be downloaded for selected areas/RCPs/variables/models/years through the GDO DCHP portal: https://gdo-dcp.ucllnl.org/downscaled_cmip_projections/dcpInterface.html#Projections:%20Subset%20Request

A full description of the GDO DCHP portal can be found in Portals for downloading climate change data.

Climate Toolbox

University of California Merced 

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Summary:

A diverse set of climate (past and future) viewing tools available through one portal, the Climate Toolbox offers many different ways to analyze and view future projections.

Upside:

Huge array of climate variables and mapping/graphing options; many impact variables for hydrology, agriculture, and fire applications; unique tools and capabilities; clear graphics; data download options

Downside:

Some tools easier to use than others; each tool has different variables and different location options (point, rectangular areas, county, watersheds, tribal regions)

Projection dataset:

CMIP5MACA (20 models, RCP4.5 & 8.5, 40 projections; VIC hydrologic variables only: 10 models, 20 projections)

Climate variables:

Varies by tool; multiple tools show Temperature (Tave, Tmax, Tmin), T thresholds, Precipitation, Dewpoint, Humidity, Wind, Solar Radiation, VPD

Impact variables:

Hydrology (SWE, Soil Moisture, Runoff, AET); Agriculture (PET, GDD, Chill metrics, crop stages, irrigation); Fire Danger (Fuel Moisture, ERC, Burning Index)

Visualizations:

Maps, Time Series, Boxplots, X-Y Scatterplots, Summary graphic (“Dashboard”), Pie Charts, Hydrographs

Data downloads:

“Download” button in lower left. Most tools allow the summarized projection data as displayed in the selected chart/map to be downloaded as a text/Excel file (also netCDF for Climate Mapper). 

The full daily or monthly data can be downloaded for a point location in the Data Download Tool or in the Future Streamflow tool.

Other ways to download this projection dataset:

The MACA Download Tools are for downloading large subsets or for aiding in bulk downloads. 

A full description of these tools can be found in Portals for visualizing climate change data, comprehensive.

How-to guidance:

Each tool has a “Take Tour” button at upper right; most tool options have a “(?)” button for further info about that option. Some tools have an introduction video or 2-page Tool Summary.

There is additional guidance material available with the “Northwest Climate Toolbox Workbook” (under the Guidance menu tab), the ‘Climate Toolbox Case Study Series’, the ‘Climate Toolbox Tool Summaries Series’, and a growing set of Video Introductions to the tools and datasets. 

Don’t miss:

There is a Variable Lookup tool which helps you find which of the tools show a particular variable of interest.

National Climate Change Viewer (NCCV)

U.S. Geological Survey

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Summary:

The NCCV is a highly versatile data viewing tool that has recently been updated with MACAv2 downscaled CMIP5 projections–the same dataset used in the Climate Toolbox. 

Upside:

Very clean and straightforward interface; several types of data visualizations; can select several types of areas for analysis (including multiple watershed scales); matching future hydrology projections; easy data downloads; can output custom summary reports (PDF) for the selected area. 

Downside:

Can’t easily download data for all models at once (but the NCCV developers will facilitate bulk data downloads through their FTP site on request). Can’t create maps of projected changes. 

What dataset:

CMIP5MACAv2-METADATA (20 models, RCP4.5 & 8.5, 40 projections)

Climate variables:

Temperature (Tave, Tmax, Tmin), Precipitation, Vapor Pressure Deficit

Impact variables:

Hydrology (Soil Moisture, Snow, Runoff, Evaporative Deficit)

Visualizations:

Maps, Time series, Monthly climographs, Scatterplots, Data tables, Model agreement, Ensemble significance and range. 

Data downloads:

JavaScript JSON data files and CSV time series for counties, states, and watersheds.

How-to guidance:

Accessed via “Help” in upper-right menu: https://www2.usgs.gov/landresources/lcs/nccv/nccv2_documentation_v1.pdf

Don’t miss:

Summary Reports. When you have an area of interest selected in the map, select “Downloads” from the upper-right menu, then hit one of the “Summary Report” buttons at the bottom center. The resulting 40-page PDF contains ~200 plots showing every variable/time frame, from the ensemble mean projections. 

Other ways to download this projection dataset:

The daily CMIP5 MACA climate dataset can be downloaded using the MACA Download Tools: https://climate.northwestknowledge.net/MACA/gallery_data.php

A full description of these tools can be found in Portals for visualizing climate change data, targeted.

There is also a USGS data release of the hydrology data from the NCCV (netCDF format), which does not include the MACAv2-METDATA climate data set: https://doi.org/10.5066/P9B2O22V