Open Data Education In The Name Of Climate Change

Stewart Hillhouse
Jan 15 · 2 min read

you’ve ever been caught in a dead-end conversation, the topic inevitably lands on the weather.

“Crazy *insert any weather observation* we’re having!”

People have been observing the weather forever, possibly because it affects us all. Lucky for us, meteorologists and other atmospheric scientists have also been recording the weather, which over a long time gives us a better view of our climate.

The difference between weather and climate is a measure of time. Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere “behaves” over relatively long periods of time.

Source: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

This weather data is extremely important because it allows us to create an unbiased picture of how the climate changes over time. And guess what? A lot of this weather data is freely available for anyone to access.

Open Data Education

While these datasets might be available, that doesn’t mean that everyone will know what to do with them in order to answer their question. Thankfully, terrific organizations like NIWA of New Zealand exist to help educate us on the power of climate data.

NIWA’s purpose is to enhance the economic value and sustainable management of New Zealand’s resources and environments. They have been keeping track of New Zealand’s climate since 1909 and have just released their Annual Climate Summary of 2018.

Something NIWA does really well is using their expertise and data to teach New Zealanders how to analyze weather data to derive climate trends.

They have a large Education & Training component as part of the services they provide in order to educate students of every age about the importance of caring for our climate.

With step-by-step instructions, ranging from finding Mean Monthly Rainfall to Modeling Climate Using Trigonometric Functions, there is something for every level of data literacy.

So next time you get cornered in a tired conversation and can’t think of anything else to talk about, tell them that the accumulated measurement of weather makes climate, and about the important work NIWA is doing to provide data education in the name of sustainability.


Making data useful.

Stewart Hillhouse

Written by

I write about enhancing the human experience through good design. Director of Data Design at GoDo



Making data useful.