Downloading NCDC Climate Data from Internet into a Text File


The purpose of this exercise to demonstrate the steps involved in downloading climate (precipitation and temperature) data from the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). The lesson is developed by using a climate station in Indiana as an example, but the overall process should be replicable for any other NCDC station in the United States.


There are two ways to download climate data from NCDC: traditional web interface and GIS portal. A GIS portal is just a map interface on top of the underlying data which eventually takes you to a web interface to download the data. NCDC GIS portal is available at



The NCDC GIS portal provides access to more than 350,000 global locations to get climate data. More information on these locations and related products is available on the NCDC website. Data can be accessed at local, regional, national and global scale for varying time intervals. In this tutorial, we are interested in getting daily precipitation and temperature data for one or more stations in Sr. Joseph Watershed in northeast Indiana. To get daily climate data, click on the Daily Surface Data link, and you will get the actual (global) map interface shown below.


In the Locator search box on the top-right corner, enter any information related to a station to see a detailed map of that station including its location. In this tutorial, we will use the county name (De Kalb) to search for climate stations. Type DeKalb (or dekalb) in the locator window, and push the Go button.

If multiple counties with the same name are found, you will get a list of corresponding locations as shown below. 


Scroll down this list, and click on De Kalb County, Indiana to make our area of interest visible on the map interface. 


You should then see De Kalb County in Indiana along with the climate station locations displayed as dots (pink in this case) as shown in the above screen shot. Besides using a search query to get to this location, GIS tools available on the basic tools menu can also be used to interact with the map and get to any area of interest. To check the availability of data, select the Identify Location tool 1335467266 , and click on a colored dot next to Garrett (shown by an arrow in the above figure). The interface will then display the information related to the selected station in a table along with link to the data and more information as shown below.




The tabular information presented above also gives information on when the data collection began at this station (Begin Date) and the date of the last record in the dataset (End Date). Check the box next to Garrett 1 S (COOPID: 123207), and click on Get Selected Data button to access data at this station. The next interface invoked from this link will ask you whether you want simplified or advanced option to download data. The simplified option will give you a fixed number of variables (precipitation, maximum temperature, minimum temperature, snowfall, and snow depth) for any specified time period; whereas with advanced option, you can choose what variables should be included in the dataset. For this exercise, we will go with the simplified option to keep our life simple and get the job done! 

Click on Continue with SIMPLIFIED Options. Finally, you will get to the interface from which you can download the data! Change the From date to 01/2007 and To date to 08/2009, and press the Continue button. 


You will then get an inventory of data that will be provided including file size and output format. Click on the Inventory Review check box, enter your valid email address and click push Submit Request.


Email address is used to notify you when the data is ready for download. Typically for small data requests (such as the one in this tutorial), the data is available immediately as you will see in the next window (shown below) after submitting the request.


Click on the access URL to get the data. 


You can download the data either through a web form or as an ASCII file. Use ASCII format, and click on the .txt file to get the data. Save the file (as dekalb.txt) in your working directory.