Scott, J. D., M. A. Alexander, J. A. Collins, and C. A. Smith, 1997: Interactive visualization of climate data on the WWW. Bull. Amer. Met. Soc., 78, 1985-1989.


INTRODUCTION

Since the advent of the World Wide Web (WWW) in the early 1990s, a tremendous amount of information has become available to the general public. The WWW allows a person to navigate "hypermedia" - text, images, or sound files that are linked together electronically. The WWW is an information presentation tool flexible enough to handle a wide range of data presentation methods and popular enough to reach a large audience, making it an effective teaching or research tool. We have taken advantage of these attributes by developing an interactive electronic atlas of climatic products from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP)-National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Reanalysis Project and the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) General Circulation Model (GCM) on the WWW at http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/ncep_reanalysis/ and http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/gfdl/.

Although printed atlases have their own utility, an electronic version has many advantages. An electronic atlas is dynamic, so that fields can be added, corrected, and updated as more data become available. Since it is distributed via the Internet, the electronic atlas has a potentially larger audience and is less expensive to distribute than a printed publication. Other research institutions provide interactive climate information on the WWW with varying degrees of complexity. Some, like the Climate Change Atlas (Model Evaluation Consortium for Climate Assessment 1997), are interfaces to access pregenerated images stored on disk. This type of design has all of the advantages listed above, yet it still has some drawbacks. Maintaining an archive of images can become cumbersome as the number of datasets, variables, and statistics increases. In addition, stored images have similar limitations to that of a printed atlas in that the region of interest, contour interval, etc., have already been determined. The electronic atlases developed at the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences (CIRES) allow users to more fully explore datasets by focusing on areas of interest, performing averages over time and space, or modifying the contour interval plotted. A similar effort to provide interactive climate data visualization on the WWW can be found at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL 1997).