I recently attended ScienceOnline Climate, a conference in Washington, D.C. at AAAS. You may have heard of the ScienceOnline annual meeting in North Carolina - this was one of their topical meetings focused on Climate Change. I moderated a session on working with data from the web in R, focusing on climate data. Search Twitter for #scioClimate for tweets from the conference, and #sciordata for tweets from the session I ran. The following is an abbreviated demo of what I did in the workshop showing some of what you can do with climate data in R using our packages.
Before digging in, why would you want to get climate data programatically vs. via pushing buttons in a browser? Learning a programming language can take some time - we all already know how to use browsers. So why?! First, getting data programatically, especially in R (or Python), allows you to then easily do other stuff, like manipulate data, visualize, and analyze data. Second, if you do your work programatically, you and others can reproduce, and extend, the work you did with little extra effort. Third, programatically getting data makes tasks that are repetitive and slow, fast and easy - you can’t easily automate button clicks in a browser. Fourth, you can combine code with writing to make your entire workflow reproducible, whether it’s notes, a blog post, or even a research article.
Interactive visualizations in R
Check out the output here. If you like you can take the source code from the visualization (right click on select View Page Source) and put it in your html files, and you’re good to go (as long as you have dependencies, etc.) - quicker than learning d3 and company from scratch, eh. This is a super simple example, but you can imagine the possibilities.
The data itself
First, install some packages - these are all just on Github, so you need to have devtools installed
Politicians talk - Sunlight Foundation listens
Look at mentions of the phrase “climate change” in congress, using the govdat package
NOAA climate data, using the rnoaa package
Map sea ice for 12 years, for April only, for the North pole
World Bank climate data, using the rWBclimate package
Plotting annual data for different countries
Data can be extracted from countries or basins submitted as vectors. Here we will plot the expected temperature anomaly for each 20 year period over a baseline control period of 1961-2000. These countries chosen span the north to south pole. It’s clear from the plot that the northern most countries (US and Canada) have the biggest anomaly, and Belize, the most equatorial country, has the smallest anomaly.
Phenology data from the USA National Phenology Network, using rnpn
Feedback and new climate data sources
Surely there are other sources of climate data out there that you want to use in R, right? Let us know what else you want to use. Better yet, if you can sling some R code, start writing your own package to interact with a source of climate data on the web - we can lend a hand.