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BUDDIE Draws the Big Picture of the Big Problem.

It's awards season and thus time for Database Review's annual BUDDIE award for Best Unknown Database. With several superb candidates, this year's competition has been the toughest since the first BUDDIE was awarded in 1989. Having lots of information on the subject of this year's competing databases is a good thing; to paraphrase the old saying that "knowledge is power," we should now say that "knowledge is survival."


The BUDDIE recognizes important but underappreciated information sources. There are three criteria for the winning database:

* It is of importance and interest to large segments of the information-using public.

* It is well-designed and -curated.

* It is unknown or, at least, much less well-known than its importance and quality merit.


The 2019 BUDDIE winner is ... Climate Signals!

Climate Signals ( emerged as a narrow winner in a field of excellent contenders. Climate Desk, Climate Central, Climate Nexus, NOAA, and NASA's Global Climate Change all have strong and distinctive mixes of climate-related news, analysis, and data. Climate Signals edges them out because it integrates these elements into a common, clarifying presentation. Climate Signals self-describes as a "digital science platform for cataloging and mapping the impacts of climate change" that will "identify the chain of connections between greenhouse gas emissions and individual climate events."

Climate Signals analyzes individual climate events with its framework and thereby provides an integrated understanding of the mind-numbingly complex processes of climate change and its outcomes. The site began as an independent project in 2010 and is now a science information resource of Climate Nexus (a BUDDIE finalist). Climate Nexus focuses on policy-oriented research on climate change and clean energy. It is a nonprofit that is sponsored by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.


Climate Signals has several separate content areas: Climate Signals, Events/ Headlines, Science Sources, Real-Time Data, and Related Sites.

Climate Signals ( climate-signals) is the site's classification of the forces of climate change--"longterm trends and projections that carry the fingerprint of climate change." There are 53 signals, arranged into 11 groups. Each group is a broad type of climate activity--Heat, Extreme Precipitation, Coastal Flood, etc.--and includes several signals. In the Coastal Flood group, for example, there are four signals: Coastal Flooding Increase, Sea Level Rise, Storm Surge Increase, and Thermal Expansion. Each signal includes a brief description and a trends analysis.

Events ( are major but specific climate occurrences: a destructive hurricane, long heat wave, large-scale wildfire, etc. As of this writing, there are 50 events, most from the past 8 years. The record for each event includes a short overview, a concise climate science analysis, and a description of the relevant climate signals. For example, the Coastal Flood climate signals were a devastating component of Hurricane Dorian, which deluged the Bahamas in 2019; the climate signal for Storm Surge Increase brought a 23-foothigh wall of water to parts of the islands. A majority of the events have occurred in the U.S., reflecting an emphasis on the U.S. climate that occurs throughout all of Climate Signals' sections.

Headlines ( lines) are weather event news stories taken from prominent newspapers, magazines, and climate-related websites. Coverage dates to 2012, and the collection is updated promptly to provide the most recent climate change news reports. Each record includes a short summary of the article and a link to the original source.

Science Sources ( scientific-reports) is a sample of noteworthy resources from the scientific literature of climate change, including peer-reviewed journal articles and reports from scientific organizations. There are more than 1,600 documents, most published over the past 20 years. Each record includes a short summary of the document and a link to the original source.

Real-Time Data ( data) tracks change over time for a wide range of individual weather and climate phenomena. They are aggregated from authoritative external science, climate, and weather websites. There are 132 separate real-time data monitors, covering climate patterns worldwide, but with a U.S. emphasis. Many have powerful interactive capabilities.

Related Sites ( resources) provides links to government, multimedia, disaster research, and climate information websites.


If Climate Signals were just a collection of its individual sections, each standing alone, it would be a useful resource. But what moves it ahead of its peers to claim the BUDDIE is its conscientious integration of these separate pieces to create deeper understandings of the complex interplay of systems that comprise climate change patterns and occurrences.

Each section of Climate Signals is tightly and skillfully integrated with relevant content from the others.

Climate Signals--The record for each signal has links to relevant sources in Events, Headlines, Science Sources, Real-Time Data, and Resources, a subsection that offers non-textual sources--maps, charts, videos, photos, infographics, etc.--from science and climate research organizations.

Events--An Event record has links to relevant Headlines, Science Sources, Real-Time Data, and Resources. To represent the respective roles of different climate signals in each event, there is a wonderful interactive graphic, the Tree of Climate Signals. It displays icons to represent each signal, and then uses positioning, labeling, color coding, and interconnecting lines to depict the interactive relationships that contribute to the event. For example, the tree for Hurricane Dorian depicts 14 separate signals from five different groups of climate change activity. This is a formidable array of data to present all at once, but the tree makes it all fit together into a single, easily perceived graphic. Each event also has an interactive map that depicts its location and progress. The map for Dorian, for example, tracks its passage through the Caribbean and along the east coasts of the U.S. and Canada, with links to news stories in Headlines.

Master Interactive Map--This map depicts events worldwide, with coding for event status and Climate Signals, as well as links to Headlines, Science Sources, and Real-Time Data.

Search Interface--Users can search Events, Headlines, Science Sources, and Real-Time Data by date, keyword, location, Event, and Climate Signal.

Climate Signals organizes a profoundly complex subject with a blend of content types, consumer and professional literature, interactive graphics, and interactive maps. It may seem that there are too many moving parts for it all to work, but Climate Signals brings it off with exquisite, BUDDIE-level curation. Its various browse, search, and interconnectivity features are clearly presented with intuitive page design and helpful labeling. And there are no ads, which is no small benefit in itself.


Climate change is usually grouped in a list with other severe, world-level problems: political contention, economic and social inequality, a degraded biosphere, blighted communities, etc. But this one-tier classification is wrong. Instead, there are two tiers, and they aren't equal. The first tier--The Big Problem--contains climate change alone; it is radically more threatening to Earth's welfare than the second tier--Other--which contains everything else. With its clear, accessible explanations of climate change's multiple, interconnected threats, Climate Signals is one small means to understand The Big Problem, which is the first step to addressing it.

Mick O'Leary has been reviewing databases and websites for Information Today since 1987. Send your comments about this column to or tweet us (@ITINewsBreaks).

The 2019 BUDDIE Award Winner


The 2019 BUDDIE award winner, Climate Signals, provides analysis, data, and news on climate change and its multiple causes and outcomes. Its superb curation, with excellent graphics and diligent content integration, makes sense of a subject that is deeply intimidating both for its complexity and for the severity of its effects.
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Title Annotation:Database Review
Author:O'Leary, Mick
Publication:Information Today
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2020
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