NOAA upgrades climate website amid growing demand for climate information
NOAA’s Climate Program Office today launched a newly redesigned version of Climate.gov, NOAA’s award-winning, flagship website that provides the public with clear, timely, and science-based information about climate. The redesign expands the site’s already significant capacity to connect Americans with the resources they need to understand and plan for climate-related risks.
Americans are facing increasingly frequent, severe, and often life-threatening risks from climate change-influenced extreme weather events. Communities, governments, and businesses have begun working to lower greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience. But according to the latest National Climate Assessment, the country will need to significantly scale up these efforts “to avoid substantial damages to the economy, environment, and human health over the coming decades.”
Amid these changes, communities and businesses are increasingly requesting NOAA’s assistance and expertise in order to understand the enormously complex and destructive impacts of climate change, and the new Climate.gov better meets this growing demand for climate science and information.
“Not only is the climate crisis costing us American lives, with countless families being tragically torn apart by these extreme weather events, but it’s also costing us billions of dollars, with a price tag of over $96 billion last year alone. That number will only get bigger, and the climate events will only get deadlier if we do not act,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. “The Commerce Department, including NOAA, will use all of the tools at its disposal to address these challenges. Climate.gov is the nation’s leading online resource for advancing climate literacy and building resilience to climate impacts. The improved Climate.gov is an asset for families, communities, and businesses. We will continue to work to make NOAA’s data as accessible and impactful as possible.”
Climate.gov offers magazine-style articles about climate science and describes how climate conditions are changing with maps, graphics, features, and videos, as well as classroom-ready teaching resources matched to grade levels and science learning standards. The site’s redesigned Global Climate Dashboard gives a data-driven readout on the state of the climate system with public-friendly explainers and answers to frequently asked questions. The site provides access to commonly requested climate data and tools hosted by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information and Regional Climate Centers. Climate.gov’s Climate Data Primer provides a guide for users who are new to climate data.
“Climate.gov helps meet the diverse needs of the public, whose health, safety, and economic well-being are directly tied to climate, water, and weather,” said Rick Spinrad, Ph.D., NOAA administrator. “The effects of climate change are adversely affecting people’s livelihoods and property while putting stress on critical infrastructure, natural resources, and cultural and historic landmarks. The new Climate.gov helps advance one of my main priorities, which is to expand NOAA’s role as the authoritative provider of climate products and services, and increase our capacity to help communities better understand, prepare for, and respond to climate risks and impacts.”
Originally launched in 2010, the redesigned site addresses the needs and interests of the science-interested public, researchers, educators, and other target audiences based on feedback received during listening sessions.
The redesign uses an artificial intelligence platform to advance Climate.gov’s search tool, allowing queries based on location so that users can find city and state-specific maps and data, ensuring climate information is accessible and relevant to all audiences. The new Climate.gov also uses the artificial intelligence platform to better integrate and cross-link content to highlight all available resources sitewide that are relevant to each visitor’s unique interests. In addition, users will now find a better mobile experience on tablets and smartphones.
The team has improved user experience and accessibility on the new site by utilizing the federal standards established through 508c and the latest Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0). Pages were designed with accessibility in mind and images and videos support improved alternate tags and transcripts. All colors and fonts were selected from the guidelines established by the Government Services Administration’s U.S. Web Design System to ensure all content is friendly for vision-impaired users or those with color blindness.
“Climate.gov is America’s public gateway to climate literacy,” said David Herring, chief of the NOAA Climate Program Office’s Communication, Education, and Engagement Division. “This redesign allows the site to continue to provide the highest level of service to its visitors.”
As a primary trusted source of climate information, Climate.gov receives approximately 900,000 visits per month and has more than 400,000 followers across its social media channels. The site’s custom maps and graphics are often shared and re-published worldwide in textbooks, scholarly journal articles, congressional briefing materials, blogs, industry publications, and the media.
Climate.gov is also a valuable source for educators. University professors, for example, assign Climate.gov’s popular blog on the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) climate pattern—a collaboration between Climate.gov and experts from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center—as required reading for their courses on climate variability and seasonal forecasting.
Climate.gov also sponsors and syndicates the award winning Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN) teaching guides and collection of climate and energy educational resources—including learning activities, visualizations, videos, as well as short demonstrations and experiments—geared toward educators of students in primary through undergraduate levels.