Climate Ontology

An ontology is an information model that precisely defines the concepts that are used in a given domain.  By ‘concepts,’ we mean objects, events, physical phenomena, or anything that is important in a field or discipline. An ontology is created by identifying the concepts, organizing them into a class hierarchy, and identifying the properties of each class.  An ontology often also defines the relationships between concepts.

Today, ontologies are being created in many scientific disciplines to crisply define the concepts that are discussed or measured in that discipline.  An ontology is particularly useful for defining the characteristics and relationships between physical measurements that are recorded in scientific data sets.

What are we doing with ontology technology?

The Climate Data Services group at Goddard is developing a climate ontology that describes the variables used in climate model data sets and related observational data sets.

Climate models generate predictive or retrospective analysis data for a large number of variables that describe physical parameters covering atmosphere, land, ocean, aerosols, ice, and other areas.  Satellite observations of Earth parameters are often used together with climate models, but observation data sets may use variables having slightly different definitions.

To accurately compare results from different climate models, or to compare model results with satellite observations, climate scientists need to understand the characteristics of hundreds of variables in order to select the right ones for their analyses.  Our climate ontology will help solve this problem.

What climate ontology services do we plan to offer?

Our climate ontology will provide the basis for a variety of services that will help climate scientists understand the variables used in important climate model and observational data sets.  The climate ontology services will be accessible via the web, and we plan to include the following use cases:

  • Data Modeler User
  • Climate Data Publisher User
  • Climate Scientist User
  • REST API -

CDS climate ontology services are under development.  Below are beta version of some services to use as-is: