Emerging developments in geographic information systems and distributed computing offer a roadmap towards an unprecedented spatial data infrastructure in the climate sciences. Key to this are the standards developments for digital geographic information being led by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) technical committee on geographic information/geomatics (TC211) and the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC). These, coupled with the evolution of standardised web services for applications on the internet by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), mean that opportunities for both new applications and increased interoperability exist. These are exemplified by the ability to construct ISO-compliant data models that expose legacy data sources through OGC web services. This paper concentrates on the applicability of these standards to climate data by introducing some examples and outlining the challenges ahead. An abstract data model is developed, based on ISO standards, and applied to a range of climate data–both observational and modelled. An OGC Web Map Server interface is constructed for numerical weather prediction (NWP) data stored in legacy data files. A W3C web service for remotely accessing gridded climate data is illustrated. Challenges identified include the following: first, both the ISO and OGC specifications require extensions to support climate data. Secondly, OGC services need to fully comply with W3C web services, and support complex access control. Finally, to achieve real interoperability, broadly accepted community-based semantic data models are required across the range of climate data types. These challenges are being actively pursued, and broad data interoperability for the climate sciences appears within reach.
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