New paper in Nature’s Scientific Data describes ins and outs of Ontario Climate Data Portal developed at York U

In 2018, scientists at the Laboratory of Mathematical Parallel Systems (LAMPS) at York University launched a user-friendly, accessible Ontario Climate Data Portal to provide the most robust climate change projections for Ontario. Now, the team has published a paper in Nature’s Scientific Data to describe, for the first time from a more scientific perspective, the portal’s structure and functions, extensive datasets and data development methodology.

Huaiping Zhu

Professor Huaiping Zhu in the Department of Mathematics & Statistics (also director of LAMPS and the Centre for Disease Modelling and Tier 1 York Research Chair in applied mathematics) is lead author on the paper. Co-authors include other York colleagues in LAMPS (Ziwang Deng, Xiaoyu Chen and Xiaolan Zhou), Lassonde School of Engineering (Jinliang Liu), and the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change (Richard Bello), and Xin Qiu at SLR Consulting (Canada) Ltd. Zhu also led the development of the portal, which hosts terabytes of data that cover 120 years (from 1981 to 2100).

The paper outlines how the portal provides a super ensemble of projections under various greenhouse gas concentration trajectories adopted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, offering users thousands of static and interactive maps, trend lines, summary tables, reports and downscaled data. It also describes the sources of data used to develop the projections, including conventional weather station observations, comprehensive reanalysis, and downscaled data.

“We also discuss how we are striving to improve the portal to expand its capacity, like the inclusion of historical analyses and enhancing its functionality for those accessing the portal through mobile devices,” said Zhu.

So far, 10,000 users have accessed the portal, including academics, practitioners from governmental agencies (federal, provincial, regional and municipal), consulting companies and others from the private sector, and significant figures like the former Environmental Commissioner of Ontario and the spokesperson of Environment and Climate Change Canada. These robust climate projections have been used to assess risk and guide climate change policy and adaptation plan development.

“One of our motivations for developing the portal was our belief that progress on identifying future adaptations to climate change was being hampered by the inaccessibility of authoritative information to the non-specialist,” added Zhu. “As well, the portal will fill an important gap by serving as an invaluable source of data and training for undergraduate and graduate students.”

The paper, The Ontario Climate Data Portal, a user-friendly portal of Ontario-specific climate projections, was published on May 19, 2020.