Improving access to NIWA's climate data - Summer of eResearch 2012

Summer of eResearch 2012 has funded a project to prototype an open, readily-accessible web interface for NIWA's National Climate Database, which collects and stores all of the information collected by NIWA's network of climate sensors and stations.

A Sensor Observation Service for the NIWA climate database

Summer of eResearch is a national programme for enhancing New Zealand's research communities (as part of the NeSI community) while strengthening the prospects for young software engineers. The programme provides fully-paid scholarships for excellent students to work on projects that will benefit the wider research community.

One of this year's projects is being carried out in conjunction with NIWA - providing online access to public climate data through the establishment of an OGC-compliant Sensor Observation Service (SOS) serving time-series data from the New Zealand National Climate Database (CLIDB).

The benefits of the project include better-managed freshwater use, and improved knowledge of the potential impacts of climate change are critical for any country to plan and manage its natural resources. One of the foundations of any effort in these areas is ready access to climate (including rainfall) information.

Besides the apparent advantages for New Zealand's researchers, other bodies such as consultancies, commercial organisations and governmental agencies will profit from a dynamic, standards-driven and web-based geospatial data delivery service, which could also serve as another good example for other environmental data providers.


NIWA operates a network of weather and climate stations, equipped with different sensors, observing a wide range of environmental properties – from temperature to rainfall to wind speed and directions. These high frequency measurements are processed and stored in the NIWA climate database (CLIDB), which is listed as a nationally significant database. NIWA has already a web interface in place, where data can be queried and downloaded. However, this is a manual process.

The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) is an international consortium comprised of organisations from industry and research that develops geospatial data transfer and encoding standards and specifications in an open and consensus-based process.

All development will be using open source tools and libraries. The results of this project will also be released under an open licence, to enable all potential users of climate data to have free and unemcumbered use of the ouputs of this project.

NIWA intends that SOS services become the primary delivery mechanism for its climate, hydrometric, water and air quality and other time-series data to internal research staff and also central, regional and local government, businesses, NGOs, utilities and the general public via appropriate SOS web clients.

Summer of eResearch funded student Alex Kmoch for the project, working with NIWA staff. The project runs to the beginning of April and is going very well - more detailed progress reports are available at