The Climate Toolbox

Beyond Big Climate Data

The Data Challenge

  • Increasing amount of data being created
  • Data availability ≠ usability of information
  • Interactive data interfaces are becoming the standard
  • Co-development of products to meet demand

The amount of data has been increasing nearly exponentially, however our ability to use this data to make better decisions has not. So with CIRC2.0 we are not going to continue the trend of increasing the number of datasets, but instead work on making them more useful and usable.

CIRC is well situated to contribute climate services in the NW through established links with stakeholder communities across the region with the help of John Stevenson and Kathie Dello among others, we have worked with a number of different end users to co-produce value-added information including the work with PUMA related projects with Seattle Public Utilies and Portland Water Bureau. We have amassed a large database of information and begun trying to make this information more accessible using links through REACCH, the Climate Hub and the NW Climate Science Center. This work would help strengthen those links

Translating climate data to usable information

Underlying Goal

Improve decision-makers ability and knowledge in incorporating climate information including past data, seasonal climate forecasts and climate projections to achieve productivity and sustainability.

  • Alleviate data/information accessibility barriers
  • Dynamic decision support and data tools
  • Climate information that address needs and influence real-world decision making

As a transition from CIRC1.0 to CIRC2.0 both Bart and myself proposed leveraging many of the large datasets that have been assembled for the NW

Raw data requires preprocessing and NetCDF is a foreign language to most: Why should each user have to solve this data burden on their own? Furthermore we would like to transition from just being about data to providing information as decision support tools aligned with the needs of stakeholders in the NW.

UW Hydrologic Monitor +

WestWide Drought Tracker

-High spatial resolution drought information

-Maps and timeseries, limited interaction capability

White house Climate Data Initiative

  • Brings together data and design to develop data-driven planning and resilience tools for local communities.
  • US Gov’t, Google, ESRI

In spring of last year the White House announced a climate data initiative that aimed to leverage large datasets and climate resources to simulate innovation on climate change preparenedness, meaning connecting decision makers with data-driven tools. Several corporations have contrinbuted to this effort including Google who committed 1 petabyte to cloud storage of climate and remote sensing datasets and the power of high performance cloud computing to make this happen.

Myself and Justin Huntington from DRI were subsequently awarded a google faculty award to start integrating climate and remote sensing datasets for drought monitoring across the US. I will show you some of the progress made on that front here today as it lays a foundation for where we are hoping to take the NW climate toolbox with CIRC2.0

Google Earth Engine

  • Cloud based geospatial processing platform
  • Python ready programming infrastructure
  • Rapid parallel computing
  • Immediate Visualization/Interaction Capabilities
  • Currently limited to data on google’s cloud

…facilitates interaction w/big data

High performance geospatial analysis.

How We Started, Our Team

How We Got Started (late 2014)

  • Google Faculty Research Award


  • Applications to drought, vegetation, fire, climate analysis, and data discovery
  • Applied use of Google’s Earth Engine

Additional Funding (late 2015)

  • CIRC (Agclimate Tools)


This project got started in Summer 2014, when we received a Google Faculty Research Award for our 2 institutions led by Justin Huntington and John Abatzoglou. We wanted to develop a web interface that could allow anyone to visualize real-time global climate/remote sensing datasets from the cloud . We’ve now been working on this project for the last 7 months and have new funding to continue this work.

Map Layer Options

There are two main pieces to Climate Engine. The first is our mapping interface which visualizes map layers on a Google Map.

Time Series Options

The second piece is our time series tool which supports the visualization/download/display of time series data.

Google Cloud Datasets Accessed

  • Landsat Remote Sensing
  • MODIS Remote Sensing
  • METDATA Gridded Meteorological
  • CFS Reanalysis
  • CHIRPS Precipitation

Datasets ingested by Google Cloud

Climate Engine accesses a couple of different datasets that are hosted on the Google Cloud. This provides unparalleled access to petabytes of data at the users fingertips.

Types of Variables Accessed

  • Precipitation, Temperature
  • Humidity, Wind, Radiation
  • Fire Indices
  • Vegetation Indices
  • Drought Indices
  • Snow Cover

Variables on Google’s Cloud

There are many variables(or bands) available within each dataset on the Cloud. Our tools accesses many meteorological variables such as precipitation, temperature and also indices related to fire, drought, vegetation and snow monitoring.

Custom Date Ranges

Custom Calculations

Custom Statistics

Customized Analyses

Our interface allows user to customize their calculations.

These calculations all use functions from the GEE API and are processed on the fly on the thousands of processors in the GAE.

Downloadable as geotiff

Here is an example generated by our tool of visualizing California’s Drought Conditions so far in 2015

using the Palmer Drought Severity Index for soil moisture. Here we see that California’s soil moisture is about 3-6 standard deviations dryer than has been seen in the last 30 years.

Here we have used our colorbar tool to provide the exact colormap used by the US Drought Monitor for PDSI.

Dynamic Maps

Customized Time Series Extraction

Dynamic graphics, csv output

The confluence




Ag-Climate Toolbox

NW Hydrologic Monitor

Last year we had proposed two separate “streams” to CIRC2.0., a Hydrologic Monitoring Toolbox and an Ag-Climate Toolbox. Bart and I agreed that we’d be better served and had a better project to unite these streams in the NW Climate Toolbox “river” of sorts by using a common interface and common datasets

NW Agricultural Needs

Broad reaching derived climate information

  • Growing degree days
  • Irrigation demand
  • Climate suitability

Phenology model for cheatgrass that uses degree days and can track expected stages of cheatgrass across the landscape and compare to historical conditions. Such information might be useful treatment approaches


So far:

  • User friendly and dynamic interface
  • Unprecedented access to large climate/remote sensing data
  • Near real-time streams of GridMet meteorological data
  • MACA data on Google allows for customized CC analysis

Possible Next steps:

  • Decision support tools for agriculture
  • User defined input region (e.g., polygons)
  • Variety of output formats
  • UW hydrologic outputs
  • Weather/Climate Forecasts: GFS, NMME outputs

In this talk, I have shown you the web tool that our group has developed for looking at drought.

This web tool

Has a user friendly interface

Provides unprecedented access to MODIS/LANDSAT data

Allows visualization of

Different flavors of drought

Drought at a high spatial resolution

Drought on varying time scales

We are not done adding features.. But we are very excited about this project and what we can do with our resources.

Thank you.

Any questions?


Building on Data + Tools


Historical and real time

  • UW gridded hydrologic output from VIC (snow, soil moisture)
  • Gridded meteorological data of Abatzoglou (2013)

Modeled data

  • MACA/Integrated Scenarios archive


  • UW Drought Monitoring System
  • West-Wide Drought Tracker
  • Google Earth Engine Framework

With CIRC1.0 and affiliated projects we have created a large database of downscaled climate projection data as well as a real time system for updating daily surface meteorological datasets. At the UI we have a related project funded through USDA-NIFA to provide downscaled seasonal climate forecasts to help guide rangeland restoration efforts in the Great Basin in post-fire landscapes. Bart and his group at UW have a great hydrologic modeling system that runs VIC across the NW and parts of California on a daily basis as well to get an information on snow, soil moisture and streamflow forecasts.

We’ve also both worked on climate tools and services. Myself having worked and been affiliated with the western regional climate center for 9 years or so and developed the WWDT, and Bart and colleague the Drought montoring system. I’ll also introduce a new system of sorts using Google’s EE framework here as it is a basis of our tool.

Diverse agricultural commodities

Tri-State University Extension

We plan to start with a few disparate agricultural users that span the geography of the PNW including: (i) dryland farming of wheat in the inland NW that account for a majority of the total cropland in the region and of significant value to rural economy, (ii) projected changes in geographic extend of agroclimatic niches for tree fruit crops (apples, cherries and pears), and (iii) an under-served agricultural crop in the region that will be developed through interaction with growers association meetings.

2015_CBI_Abatzoglou.pptx - Google Slides