CSIRO offers climate change data online

The CSIRO has launched a new website aimed at providing public access to 35 years’ worth of climate change data collected by the agency and the Bureau of Meteorology.

The site features the output of some three billion measurements from the Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Station in Tasmania on gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide.

According to CSIRO’s Science into Society Group leader, Peta Ashworth, the site’s launch was predicated on demand from the public for more information of climate change.

“This website is one way, for those who are interested, to provide an opportunity to access information on what is happening to atmospheric levels,” she said. “One of the things our work shows is that people in the community have different preferences for how they’d like to access [climate change] information, so by using the internet and actually putting this up in the way that it has it will be very well received...and help people understand what is happening on a monthly basis.”

CSIRO Changing Atmosphere research group leader, Dr Paul Fraser, said the timing of the site’s launch was not related to recent criticism of climate change science and scientists in mainstream media.

Fraser said the site’s data was “world class” and relied upon by a number of international organisations for use in their own climate science and research.

“We have in CSIRO’s records one of the world’s best records [of climate data] and we have been anxious for some time to share those data with as wide a community as possible,” he said.

“We have done it in the past, somewhat indirectly through our international obligations on reporting Greenhouse gas concentrations, but we really want to make this data available as soon as possible so the public can access it without necessarily getting an interpretation from a third party. If they have got any questions about the data we are happy to deal with them and interact with them.

“In my mind it has nothing to do with countering criticisms of climate change. What we are trying to do is put up the factual data on which the conclusions are arrived at which climate change is seen as driven largely by the accumulation of Greenhouse gases.”

Ashworth said a recent survey of the public carried out by the CSIRO had indicated that around seven percent of 1600 respondents were sceptical of climate change, and that publishing the agency’s climate data would provide further data for their consideration.

“This website in itself provides another opportunity for evidence that people can go to clarify [doubts about climate change],” she said.

The site's launch follows protest action by climate scientists in which more than 200 scientists due to converge on Canberra calling on politicians to help stop what they say is the misinformation being disseminated in the climate debate.

Fraser said the CSIRO was yet to enable the download of the research data by the public; however that would become available in the near future.

“The public can look at the data and display it in various ways, but they will be able to download the data and do their own analyses and come to whatever conclusion they come to,” he said. “If they then want to discuss those conclusions with the scientists then they can.”

Follow Tim Lohman on Twitter: @Tlohman

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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