NOAA Climate Change Web Portal makes IPCC data more accessible

A key approach for examining climate, especially how it will change in the future, uses complex computer models of the climate system that include atmosphere, ocean, sea ice and land components. Now, this information is accessible through a single interactive website. The NOAA Climate Change Portal is a web interface developed by ESRL’s Physical Sciences Laboratory (PSL) and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science (CIRES) and featured in a new paper published this month in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. “The portal provides scientists, resource managers, and stakeholders a way to examine climate models by comparing them to past observations and view how they project future climates,” says Michael Alexander, a research meteorologist in PSL and co-author on the paper.

The portal allows researchers to access and display the large volumes of climate and earth system models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for the Fifth Assessment Report. Users can access two components of the portal: one that focuses on land and rivers, and one that focuses on oceans and marine ecosystems. The web portal uses interactive menus that allow users to display maps and time series that vary depending on the data they select.

“While useful web-based systems already exist for viewing climate model fields, the Climate Change Portal offers some unique capabilities, including examination of model bias, inter-model variability, changes in variance, and displaying a range of variables,” says Alexander. In addition, “users like not having to deal with the raw model output which can be quite cumbersome as well as not having to program data analysis and visualization software,” says lead author James Scott, a CIRES scientist working in PSL. The portal is designed so that more variables, experiments, statistics, and features can be added in the future.

The portal was supported by the US Bureau of Reclamation, US Army Corps of Engineers, and NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service.

CIRES is a research partnership of NOAA and the University of Colorado.

This image shows what the average summer surface temperatures look like for 50-year periods.
This image shows what the average summer surface temperatures look like for 50-year periods. The upper left shows the temperatures from the real world for 1956-2005. The average of all the CMIP5 simulations for the same time period are shown in the upper right. The lower left shows the difference between the CMIP5 simulations and the real world for the historical (1955-2005) time period. The lower right shows the average change in the temperature for summer in the future CMIP5 simulations (2050-2099) compared the simulated past (1955-2005). Interior portions of North America are 4-5°C (7-9°F) warmer in the future time period.
This image shows what the average summer surface temperatures look like for 50-year periods.

Scott, James D., Michael A. Alexander, Donald R. Murray, Dustin Swales, and Jon Eischeid: The Climate Change Web Portal: a system to access and display climate and earth system model output from the CMIP5 archive. Bull. Am. Meteor. Soc., doi:10.1175/BAMS-D-15-00035.1.