Downloading Climate Data from the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC)

Venkatesh Merwade, Purdue University
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Initial Publication Date: May 27, 2015


This step demonstrates how to use the National Climatic Data Center's (NCDC) web interface to get 15 minutes interval historical precipitation data for a climate station in the United States. This step is created for a rainfall gauge in Indiana to download 15min precipitation data for one year period from 01/01/2000 - 12/31/2000. The climate station used in the step has the following name and ID: DUBOIS S IN FORAGE FARM, IN US (COOP ID 122309). The procedure to download data for other stations is identical, and can be followed to get the precipitation data for any station in the United States.

Practical Outcomes

Students demonstrate the understanding of NCDC interface for obtaining historical climate data for a specified time period

Time Required

30 minutes

Computing/Data Inputs

Text: NCDC station name and/or COOP ID: DUBOIS S IN FORAGE FARM, IN US (COOP ID = 122309)

DateTime: Start date/time (01/01/2000)

DateTime: End date/time (12/31/2000)

Computing/Data Outputs

Numerical Values: Time series of precipitation for one year in a CSV file

Hardware/Software Required

Internet browser


National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) Web Interface

The climate data can be obtained by accessing the NCEI web interface available at the following link: This interface has multiple options and tools including search and mapping for obtaining the data as shown below.


In this exercise, we will use the search tool so click on the blue "Search Tool" box at the bottom left corner of the screen. This will start the search interface, where you can specify the data variable, time period and some text to search the location of the station as shown below. Once the fields are specified, click Search to find all stations that satisfy the query.


This will then bring up all the stations that include some or all terms in the search query as shown below. The first result is what we want so click the "Add" button next to it to add the data to the Cart.


Once the data are added to the cart, you can click on the cart button on the top right corner, review the data request and then submit the request by providing your email address as shown below.


Once the data are ready, you will get an email with a link to get the data. Generally the data are provided in a .csv file, which can be opened by using MS Excel and saved as an excel file as shown below.


In the above file, the first column contains the COOP station identiifer, the second column contains the name of the station, the third column contains the date and time, the fourth column contains the precipitation volume (calculated by weight) and the final column (QPCP) contains the rainfall accumulation in 15 minutes. The unit for QPCP is 1/100 of an inch.

Additional Activities and Variants

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