4a.5 CRONOS API: Making climate data easily accessible for everyone

Tuesday, 19 July 2011: 9:30 AM
Salon C1 (Asheville Renaissance)
Mark S. Brooks, NC State University, Raleigh, NC; and B. E. Aldridge

Climate services are totally dependent on data availability and quality. Accessing climate observations and data can be daunting especially when there are dozens of sources, providers, formats and standards from which to choose and coalesce. Contemporary practices in data access, software development methods, high bandwidth availability, and the increased prevalence of on-demand products have created a need for scriptable data access.

In 2003, CRONOS (Climate Retrieval and Observations Network of the Southeast) was launched by the NC State Climate Office. It provides access to climate data from 9 different weather observing networks (ASOS, AWOS, COOP, Buoy, CMAN, SCAN, RAWS, CoCoRaHS, NC ECONet). CRONOS standardizes data from its sources and provides it in one common format with one common web interface. Web pages were developed enabling users to easily retrieve data, graph data, and search for stations without being concerned about providers, data access standards or formats. During the period 2003-2010, CRONOS served over 266,523 data queries from over 2,725 observing stations to 216,862 unique users.

The newly released CRONOS API provides "back door" access to the CRONOS database. It was developed knowing that nearly every programming and scripting language has either contributed or built-in routines for retrieving data from URLs. The API provides software developers the flexibility of using the language of their choice, without going through a web interface. Coders can retrieve data via a standard URL where parameters are passed in through the URL string. The output is pipe delimited, which makes parsing the data from any programming language very easy and efficient.

The CRONOS API is being beta tested by state, regional and national partners as well as some private industry users. Its future uses include but are not limited to integration into mobile applications, external webpages, automated verification of nwp models, and automated inclusion into water resources modeling. The API enables scientists to focus on science and spend less time manipulating and gathering climate data.

The State Climate Office of North Carolina is the primary source for NC weather and climate information and is involved in all aspects of climate research, education, and extension services. The State Climate Office is a public-service center, part of the UNC system, housed at North Carolina State University and was one of the first officially recognized state climate offices by the American Association of State Climatologists.

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