Screen capture from the Climate Explorer

Climate Explorer—Visualize Climate Data in Maps and Graphs

Explore climate projections or compare sets of map layers related to topics in the Climate Resilience Toolkit. Learn how to control graph and map displays and interpret visualizations in the application.

» Launch the new version of the Climate Explorer

Our updated application offers climate projections for every county in the contiguous United States.

» Launch Climate Explorer (legacy version) in a new window

Learn more about the legacy application »

The Climate Explorer is a research application built to support the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit. The original version has been available on this site since November 2014. In July 2016, we released a new version that includes maps and graphs of climate projections for every county in the contiguous United States. Both versions of the web application are available.

About the new version of the Climate Explorer

The Climate Explorer offers graphs, maps, and data of observed and projected temperature, precipitation, and related climate variables for every county in the contiguous United States. The tool shows projected conditions for two possible futures: one in which humans make a moderate attempt to reduce global emissions of heat-trapping gases, and one in which we go on conducting business as usual. You can learn more about the data displayed in the Climate Explorer by reading the About text and Definitions and FAQs within the application.

The Climate Explorer has three main sections: search by location, view by variable, and view by topic. Access each option through the application's main menu.

Screenshot of Search by Location interface

Search by location

Enter a county, city, or zip code to access graphs and maps for counties and county-equivalents in the contiguous United States (note that information for Alaska and Hawai'i will be posted as soon as possible after those data become available).

Click options in the left pane to select climate variables of interest. Toggle between viewing the chart and map by clicking the vertical bar on the right side of graphs or the left side of maps.

For explanations of the chart elements, click How to Read This in the upper right corner. This initiates a "tour" of the graph's main elements. Click NEXT to continue through all stops on the tour; click CLOSE when you are done with the tour. All the climate projection graphs are customizable: you can adjust the endpoints of the timeline to zoom to a specific period; you can also click and drag the Y axis to re-center the graphed data in the display.

To save an image of your customized graph, click the image download button in the upper right to save a .png file. Add the name of the county to the filename or image in case you want to go back to the interactive graph for the same county. You can also download comma-separated value (.csv) files of observed, historical modeled, and projected modeled data for any county; the names of downloaded .csv files begin with a unique five-digit FIPS county code (FIPS = Federal Information Processing Standard).

Weather stations graphs

Click any dot on the Weather Stations map to explore observed weather and climate at stations in the Global Historical Climatology Network-Daily (GHCN-D) database. For the location you clicked, interactive graphs show daily observations of temperature and precipitation (weather) compared to their long-term averages (climate).

Temperature graphs: The green curve—Normal Temperature Range—shows the long-term pattern of cool winters and warm summers measured from 1981 to 2010. Blue bars show the actual temperatures observed for each date: the bars extend from the day's observed minimum temperature (bottom) to the day's maximum temperature (top).

Precipitation graphs: The dark line—Normal YTD (Year-To-Date) Precipitation—shows the long-term average for accumulated precipitation through the year. Relatively steep portions of the line indicate months or seasons that receive relatively large amounts of precipitation. Green fill indicates the Observed Year-To-Date Precipitation. Steep portions or stair-step patterns in this curve indicate dates of measurable precipitation.

You can zoom, stretch, and pan on either graph to display a single week or several years of data. To control the display, click and drag on either axis, click and drag with your shift key down, scroll with your mouse, or use pinching actions on a track pad.


Screenshot of View by Variable interface

View by variable

Access maps showing past observations and future projections for eight different climate variables: Mean Daily Maximum Temperature, Mean Daily Minimum Temperature, Days With Max Above 95°F, Days With Min Below 32°F, Precipitation, Mean Daily Precipitation, Days of Precipitation Above 1 Inch, Heating Degree Days, and Cooling Degree Days.

The interface offers a way to select a decade from the 1950s to the 2090s. For future decades, you can slide an image swiper back and forth to compare conditions projected for two plausible scenarios: one scenario in which we experience continually increasing emissions of heat-trapping gases—labeled "higher emissions" in the Climate Explorer—and another scenario in which humans make a moderate effort to reduce emissions—labeled "lower emissions" in the application. For more information about future scenarios, see the list of Definitions and FAQs within the Climate Explorer.

Screenshot of View by Topic screens

View by topic

This section gives you an opportunity to explore maps related to several topics in the Climate Resilience Toolkit. For instance, you can view and interact with map layers to check where assets such as power plants, wetlands, and tribal lands intersect with climate threats such as sea level rise, storm surge, or potential flooding.

For topics listed in this section, scroll down to view impacts described by pairs of maps. Launch the map viewer by clicking the title or "View details" in the lower right.

On the map, zoom to an area of interest. Read the layer descriptions and examine the legends so you can interpret patterns on the map. Adjust the depth slider of layers such as Sea Level Rise and Storm Surge to view the range of depths provided for the map visualization.

Interact with the map layers to explore relationships among assets of value and climate threats. You can change the overlay order of maps by dragging a layer by its double-arrow symbol, turn layers off or on by toggling the eye icon, or change layer opacity to control transparency. Experiment with the display to examine the relationship between the asset and the climate threat represented by the map layers. 

If you want to share a specific map view after you've set it up, click the "Share" icon and choose a location. You can post a link to the map on Facebook or Twitter, or copy a URL "permalink" that you can use or share to regenerate the map at any time.

 

Last modified: 
2 August 2016 - 2:53pm