The Applied Research Center for Data Set Development (ARC), based at NCEI and funded by CPO's Climate Observation and Monitoring Program, has developed a new analysis ready dataset and analysis tool for health and other users motivated by NIHHIS's sustained engagement with the health community. Health researchers increasingly seek to use climate and weather datasets in their studies, but often face challenges in accessing, wrangling, understanding, and applying climate data stored in complex and unfamiliar spatial data formats.
ARC Project PI Jen Runkle (NCICS) and team assembled and cleaned daily county-level temperature and precipitation records from 1951 to present, and stored them as a health-user friendly comma separated value (CSV) file primed for use in statistical analysis. The ARC team also created a package (EpiNOAA) in the R programming language (a free and open-source language commonly used by health researchers) to access and manipulate the data. This is an example of a use-inspired, derivative dataset that relies on long-term, sustained climate observations and analyses supported by COM and NCEI, such as NCEI's foundational Global Historical Climatology Network-daily and the NOAA Monthly U.S. Climate Gridded Datasets (NClimGrid).
This dataset will be directly useful to state and local public health offices, and is in response to persistent requests to the CPO Climate and Health team for assistance with these data. By making this dataset available, NOAA will save each individual health researcher and operational health system from having to "reinvent the wheel" when accessing NOAA climate data. The dataset will harmonize previously heterogeneous and error-prone approaches to obtaining county-level data by health users, including interpolation from stations or sampling gridded datasets. Lowering the barrier and standardizing access to NOAA observational climate data will improve health research and its outcomes for the public.
Based on recent feedback from NOAA's Climate and Equity Roundtables and requests from health researchers to interagency groups such as USGCRP and USCLIVAR, the team already has plans for future enhancements in FY22, such as population weighting, additional climate variables, and census-tract and zip code level data. The ARC team (and any additional work CPO Climate/Health might do) will continue to engage with Federal and State public health partners to assess use and needed improvements.
For further information on the technical details of the new dataset, contact Jennifer Runkle.