An overview of new surface and satellite-based climatologies available for biogeographers and ecologists: confidence and uncertainty assessments


Michael W. Douglas, CIMMS/University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma (

John F. Mejia, Desert Research Institute, Reno, Nevada


Worldclim ( products are widely used for species distribution modeling (SDM). Given the heavy reliance of the IBS SDM community on Worldclim, our workshop starts by reviewing the strengths and limitations of some key Worldclim products. In addition, we will describe new products from the remote sensing and atmospheric science communities that are becoming available to complement Worldclim’s conventional climatological analyses.

Among the most important new products are satellite-based climatologies produced from 1) visible imagery from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on several NASA satellites, 2) radar/precipitation climatologies from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite, and infrared-based imagery climatologies developed from a blend of different satellites.  Each of these climatologies have characteristics that can be exploited to improve an analysis based solely on ground-based meteorological observations.  Examples of the value of these new products for areas of high biogeographical interest and conservation concern will be presented, including from oceanic archipelagos (e.g. the Canary, Hawaiian, and Galapagos Islands) and mountainous regions in the tropics and subtropics.

We will also describe global and regional reanalyses, produced by integrating atmospheric prediction models over many years while ingesting historical data.  Climatological quantities valuable to the IBS community can be extracted from these models. Such reanalyses are essential for describing the climate over the oceans and also in providing global wind fields.

Challenges exist in merging analyses such as Worldclim with the new satellite- or reanalysis-based products. We will discuss aspects of this area of active research.

This workshop is aimed at anyone interested in the field of species distribution modeling (or its applications) – from senior researchers to graduate students. The workshop focus is on conceptual understanding of the products, where they might be most useful, and what their limitations are likely to be.