The World's Most Amazing Databases: The International Panel on Climate Change's Data Distribution Centre

The most controversial scientific topic of the past few decades--predicting the fate of the planet--gets a huge dose of data

Climate Change Collage

Wikimedia Commons

Before the International Panel on Climate Change launched its Data Distribution Centre (DDC) in 1998, researchers who needed climate-change projections had to get them from the handful of scientists who specialized in computing-intensive statistical climate modeling. Modelers became backlogged with requests; studies languished.

Worse, they often used different assumptions and data formats, making it difficult to quickly compare results. Now, however, the DDC serves as the world's central repository for projections about future climate. DDC analysts convert data from different models into compatible, downloadable formats before feeding it into the master database.

If a scientist wants to study how a variety of global-warming scenarios would affect, say, maize production in China, he can choose from data sets generated by 49 different statistical models and download data that's been converted into a usable, apples-to-apples format.