Climate change can be seen as big, complex problem for our planet. To fully understand the impact it will have, we need to understand where and when we’ll experience the most profound changes. But to do that, people need data they can draw clear, actionable insights from.
We belong to a partnership that’s making climate data easier to access, analyse and use. The Partnership for Resilience and Preparedness (PREP) is a group of private, public and civil society organisations who are working together to give people the data and insights they need to plan a future that’s resilient to the effects of climate change.
The open source PREPdata platform was first launched in 2016. Since then, the Partnership — which is co-led by World Resources Institute and Future Earth — has been listening to user feedback and requests for additional datasets. Our role was to take that feedback and design an experience that guides people towards the data they need. From the farmer in Spain who wants to know how well his crops will grow in 10 years time, to the city planner in Miami who needs to know the likelihood of extreme precipitation events occurring, anyone can access the data and create custom visualisations.
With hundreds of datasets beneath the bonnet, PREPdata has opened up climate data like nothing else has before. Available in an instant — with no painful download delays to consider — you could be layering datasets onto the map, comparing changes, and zooming in on any point on Earth with just a few clicks of the mouse. And best of all, the carefully designed data visualisation tools mean you don’t need to be a scientist or an expert to do it.
Each one of the datasets open for exploration on PREPdata has been carefully curated. For example, 21 scenarios of temperature and precipitation predictions from the NASA Earth Exchange Global Daily Downscaled Projections (NEX-GDDP) have been packaged into 10 indicators that can provide answers to questions such as:
will Spain experience desertification if carbon emissions are high?
Or, will the weather conditions in Sonoma Country still be good for growing grapes for wine in 30 years?
The NEX-GDDP data offers phenomenal insight into how the climate will change each decade between now and 2100 and what difference a low carbon emissions scenario will make compared to a high emissions scenario.
Easy does it.
With so much data to explore, it’s important to ensure no-one feels overwhelmed by it all. After all, PREPdata is designed to empower people, not frighten them. Split into three key areas; climate, exposure, and vulnerability, the datasets are gradually introduced using a design technique known as progressive disclosure. The selection and hierarchy of these datasets was informed by user feedback and research. For those who know exactly what data they want to look at, a filter and search function has been added to the platform.
As people delve into the data, they’ll learn how to customise their visualisations and save them or share them. From these visualisations they’ll be able to see how the climate might change and from that they’ll be able to infer what impact it could have. The technology we’ve used means we’ll be able to add more analysis tools in the future, like the option to highlight places and times of the month where both dry spells and extreme precipitation are likely to increase. Knowledge of this kind could be invaluable to the farmers whose livelihood depends on their crops. It could help them decide if they need to change their irrigation system or purchase stress-tolerant seeds.
The success of opening up climate data depends on the continued collaboration between those who have data and those who want to use it. The Partnership will continue tracking which datasets people want and work with different data providers to improve interoperability, so that data from different platforms can be exchanged and communicated seamlessly. Whether it’s factory owners in India contemplating a move, or pastoralists in Australia concerned about drought, we’ll be listening to their feedback as they start to use this new version of the PREP platform.
Climate change is the greatest threat that humanity has ever faced, and the only we can overcome it is by working together. PREP is an example of what we can achieve when we share our knowledge, experience and support. Every single person who uses PREP to improve the resilience of their business or community is contributing to a global effort to mitigate the devastating impacts that our changing climate is causing. We hope PREP will inspire even more people to make climate data more accessible, useful and useable.