Initiatives in Brief

In this new series, the UCAR Quarterly will profile one or more of the NCAR strategic initiatives each issue. See the feature article for more on the NCAR initiatives as a whole.
Current NCAR Initiatives
Geographic Information Systems
Weather and Climate Impact Assessment
Software Framework Development
Measurement of Winds and Temperatures in the Upper Atmosphere
Coronal Magnetic Fields
Water Cycle
IT Cyberinfrastructure
Wildland Fire R&D Collaboratory
Data Assimilation
Education and Outreach

Geographic Information Systems

Leaders: Olga Wilhelmi and Terri Betancourt, principal investigators; Jennifer Boehnert,NCAR GIS coordinator

Left to right: Jennifer Boehnert, Terri Betancourt, and Olga Wilhelmi. (Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

Goals: Promote and support the use of GIS as an analysis and infrastructure tool in -atmospheric research; address broader issues of spatial data management, interoperability, and geoinformatics; help integrate NCAR data and knowledge across disciplines andsocial groups.

Research questions:

• To what extent can the emerging GIS interoperability standards address NCAR’s legacy data and information systems integration issues?
• Can we articulate abstract requirements for representing and querying time-dependent,real-time, and volumetric data?
• What are the needs of the GIS user community for weather and climate data and information?
• What are the metrics for evaluating the practical limits of general-purpose GIS and relational database technology in atmospheric research?
• Can we develop an atmospheric data model that is general enough to be flexible and specific enough to be useful?

Recent progress:

• A community workshop in August 2002 brought more than 70 participants from academia, government, and the private sector to discuss potential GIS-related research at NCAR.
• An in-house lecture series now encourages the use of GIS at NCAR and UCAR through training and education.
• This year the initiative has partnered with GIS technology leaders in the public realm (the OpenGIS Consortium, or OGC) and the private sector (Environmental Systems Research Institute, or ESRI). NCAR is participating in the OpenGIS Consortium conformance and Interoperability Test and Evaluation (CITE) project. The initiative is working with ESRI to develop an atmospheric data model, similar to those developed for hydrological and oceanographic communities, that will provide a structure for seamless integration of atmospheric data in GIS.
• Through an NSF grant, a demonstration project explored both commercial and open-source approaches to spatial data from the International H2O Project.
• A special session at April’s joint EGS-AGU-EUG conference in Nice included nearly 30 papers and posters on the use of GIS in meteorology and climatology (see

In the literature:

Wilhelmi, O. and J. Brunskill, 2003: Geographic information systems in weather, climate, and impacts. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, October 2003.

Coming up: A key research area is the compatibility of weather and climate data with GIS-based formats. NCAR implementation of OpenGIS and the development of the atmospheric data model will continue, as well as the expansion of the GIS community in the -atmospheric -sciences through conferences and meetings (including a second community workshop at NCAR next summer).

Contact: Olga Wilhelmi,, 303-497-8126, or Terri Betancourt,, 303-497-8489.

On the Web:

Also in this issue...

The changing face of NCAR

Initiatives in Brief
Geographic Information Systems

WRF's new construction zone
Hurricane-tested WRF nails Isabel

UCAR Foundation launches tech-transfer firm

Women in meteorology: how long a minority?

Building a home for HIAPER


President’s Corner - Leaders: Born or made?
Congress looks at climate change

Web Watch - Soundings in action

Science Bit

UCAR Community Calendar