You want data? You can’t handle the data!


In response to incessant whining about data sharing by  AGW skeptics, those selfish scientists over at RealClimate have created a site that includes links to a number of climatic and oceanographic data sets.   And it just barely scratches the surface of which is indeed, and has long been, publicly and readily available.

Just as a sampler, there is LOTS of RAW and PROCESSED climate and sea level data, e.g.;

Note the date, November 30, 2009, on which AGW skeptic lie #1062, known as “Those scientists won’t share their data” was debunked.


Will it matter?  No.

Will we stop hearing about this?  No.

IOW, do you think this helpful portal to climate data will quell the growing big media meme that scientists don’t share their data?  Again – and call me crazy – I am betting no.   As long as there is one scientists of any flavor whom for whatever reason is obligated not to pass on data that does not belong to her/him (e.g., that was only used through a one-time-use-agreement) then skeptics will use this as yet another red herring to delay developing green energy resources.

I am not a climate scientist, but I can attest first hand that it is REALLY easy to get any type of climate data you want.  Maybe too easy, given how easy it is to misinterpret it or otherwise muck things up!  Getting most of it involves a simple google search, some sniffing around the database of interest and a download.  In my experience, the issue is that there is TOO MUCH climate data available online.  I have more than once been hopelessly lost in NOAAs or NODCs climate data portals.  Also, once you download it, doing something meaningful or appropriate with it is another matter.  Sometimes the records are simple and interpretable. Other times, you need some experience or a collaborator who does this sort of thing for a living.

Experiment:  what would I find if I googled “climate change data”?

Result, over 46,400,000 hits.  That is right.  FORTY SIX MILLION AND FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND hits.  (and it only took 0.22 seconds)

Wow, that was easy!  And I didn’t even have to file a FOIA to get those selfish, corrupt scientists to spit out their coveted data.

On page one of my search output, there are 10 results including some newspaper stories arguing that scientists don’t share data and (ironically) also several portals where one can easily download climate data such as the Climate Change Data Portal, a NASA master data directory, the NOAA climate Program office, the IPCC data distribution center, and the NOAA National Climate Data Center.

At least five of the first ten results contain a wealth of climate data.  Free for anyone to download, use and abuse.  Extrapolating, without any justification whatsoever, to the all the results, means that there are 23,200,000 online data repositories.  Obviously, there are not that many.  But one could spend several lifetimes analyzing the data from just the first five results.


When my former PhD student Liz Selig and I needed to build site-specific, fine-resolution SST databases for the 47 AIMS reef monitoring sites (for a project that looked at the effects of ocean warming on coral disease) we somehow convinced a real satellite oceanographer, Dr. Ken Casey, to help us (Ken is now the technical director of the NODC).   And thank goodness.  It took years to get that all set up.  And it was a lot more work and more technical than we expected.  Even moving that much data around is a non-trivial feat (at the time, Liz was driving 500GB hard drives between Chapel Hill and NOAA in DC).

Like so many other databases, our resulting database, the Coral Reef Temperature Anomaly Database or CorTAD, is freely available online here.  We regularly share it with colleagues, NGOs, etc.  And we don’t get paid (by the public or otherwise) for the hours we put in to help people access it.  Ill post more about the CorTAD below, but the point is, the internet is just saturated with all kinds of climate data that clearly demonstrates the oceans and land are warming as well as a wide range of biological and ecosystem responses to that warming.  It is a lie to claim otherwise.  The fact that not every database ever built is readily available to anyone who asks, DOES NOT MEAN THAT SCIENTIST IN GENERAL OR CLIMATE SCIENTISTS IN PARTICULAR DON’T SHARE THEIR DATA.

From A Few Good Men, written by Aaron Sorkin

Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee (Tom Cruise): I think I’m entitled to them.
Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I want the truth!
Jessep: You can’t handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives…You don’t want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.
We use words like honor, code, loyalty…we use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. You use ’em as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I’d rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you’re entitled to!
Kaffee: Did you order the code red?
Jessep: (quietly) I did the job you sent me to do.
Kaffee: Did you order the code red?
Jessep: You’re goddamn right I did!!


Coral Reef Temperature Anomaly Database

-Get the CoRTAD data files via HTTP here-
-Get the CoRTAD data files via FTP here-
-Get the CoRTAD data files via OPeNDAP here-

About the Coral Reef Temperature Anomaly Database:

There is fairly broad scientific consensus that global-scale stressors are partially responsible for the decline of coral reefs (eg., Aronson et al., Science, v302, 2003; Harvell et al., Science, v285, 1999). One likely candidate is an increase in SST in much of the tropics. Yet, it is not even known how many reefs have experienced an increase in the frequency or magnitude of thermal stress, and little is known about the spatial and temporal patterns of coral reef temperatures and how these related to broader climate change. To address these gaps in understanding, the National Oceanographic Data Center in partnership with the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill has developed a unique Coral Reef Temperature Anomaly Database (CoRTAD). The CoRTAD development was funded by the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program, and the database usesPathfinder SSTs to quantify thermal stress patterns on the world’s coral reefs since 1985.

The CoRTAD contains a collection of sea surface temperature (SST) and related thermal stress metrics, developed specifically for coral reef ecosystem applications but relevant to other ecosystems as well. The CoRTAD contains global, approximately 4 km resolution SST data on a weekly time scale from 1985 through 2005. In addition to SST, it contains SST anomaly (SSTA, weekly SST minus weekly climatological SST), thermal stress anomaly (TSA, weekly SST minus the maximum weekly climatological SST), SSTA Degree Heating Week (SSTA_DHW, sum of previous 12 weeks when SSTA is greater than or equal to 1 degree C), SSTA Frequency (number of times over previous 52 weeks that SSTA is greater than or equal to 1 degree C), TSA DHW (TSA_DHW, also known as a Degree Heating Week, sum of previous 12 weeks when TSA is greater than or equal to 1 degree C),and TSA Frequency (number of times over previous 52 weeks that TSA is greater than or equal to 1 degree C).

A few selected graphics showing the mean, minimum, and maximum temperatures from the CoRTAD are shown below to given a small glimpse into the database. Click on the graphic for an expanded view, or follow the link below the graphic to display the full resolution TIFF version. The CoRTAD is a large and extensive collection of data. At the end of this page, a listing of the files making up the CoRTAD along with their sizes is provided. For reference, you can see a Map of the CoRTAD Tiles which illustrates how the global ocean was divided for processing purposes. All of the data are currently available in HDF Scientific Data Set Format.

During 2008, the CoRTAD was developed to the point where it became ready for public use. This process involved publication of the CoRTAD procedures and results, development of FGDC metadata, and placement of the CoRTAD in the NODC archives and CoRIS systems. For more information, please contact

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