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UW, Tableau create interactive tool to explore more than a century of Pacific Northwest weather observations

This figure shows average annual temperatures measured from 1894 to 2017 at Seattle (red); Boise, Idaho (green); Vancouver, Washington (blue); and Helena, Montana (yellow).

The University of Washington’s College of the Environment has teamed up with Seattle visual analytics company Tableau Software to create a new, interactive visualization for historical observations of temperature and precipitation in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and western Montana, and for Washington snowpack.

The free online tool lets anybody interact with the records going back as far as 1881 and look for significant trends.

“This tool lets anyone, from researchers to meteorologists to members of the public, look at the actual data to motivate why we should care about our climate changing, and see how it is changing in our own backyard,” said project lead Karin Bumbaco, the assistant state climatologist for Washington.

The tool uses Tableau’s interactive visual analytics platform to select one or several National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stations in the Pacific Northwest, plot the trend and play around with time periods, seasons and other variables.

“You have to have people explore historical climate in order to understand the context of future climate,” said Heidi Roop, lead scientist for science communication at the Climate Impacts Group. “We hope Tableau visualizations like these will become go-to resources for engagement and exploration of climate data in our region.”

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