An introduction to using meteorological and hydrological data for ecologists

Monday, 4 December 2023
An introductory workshop for those from non-meteorological or hydrology backgrounds on how to obtain, download and process large meteorology and hydrology data files.


This workshop aims to provide an introduction for those from non-meteorological/hydrology backgrounds to obtaining, downloading and processing large met/hydrology files. Ecologists frequently use meteorological and hydrological data for purposes ranging from field site conceptualisation to understanding climate change impacts and extreme climate events on living organisms, aboveground and belowground. Many encounter issues with finding and using complex, unfamiliar datasets, with formal training courses tailored to an ecologist’s needs infrequent, and data products evolving rapidly.

The workshop is supported by Scenario DTP, a NERC-funded postgraduate centre that supports interdisciplinary research under several themes including climate change, weather and natural hazards, applied ecology and biodiversity, and biogeochemical processes.


The workshop is open to all researchers, including PhD students just starting out to established researchers who want to know how to improve the efficiency of how they work with large meteorology/hydrology datasets. Those with a basic understanding of how to use R will benefit most, but familiarity with file types such as NetCDFs and GRBs is not necessary prior to the workshop.  

When and Where?

4th December 2023 09:30-17:30.

Brian Hoskins Building, Whiteknights Campus, University of Reading

Directions to the room will be provided after registration.

Provisional Programme

Morning talks 10:00-12:30


Wilson Chan - Department of Meteorology, the University of Reading + UKCEH

The day will commence with a basic introduction to common file formats used for storing meteorological and hydrological data, e.g. NetCDF, why these formats are used, when to use them and how to use them in R. Available Met Office observations and projections for variables such as temperature and precipitation, and how to select what you need, will be covered, including when to use point vs gridded data. Potential evapotranspiration datasets and calculations will be explained and available hydrological datasets from UKCEH and the Global Runoff Data Centre will be introduced.

Gwyneth Matthews - Department of Meteorology, the University of Reading + ECMWF

Gwyneth will provide an introduction to ensembles, forecasts, reforecasts, reanalysis and projections before discussing what datasets are available from ECMWF. Details on the European and Global Flood Awareness Systems (EFAS and GloFAS) will be covered, which will be of particular interest to those in need of streamflow data. ERA5, ECMWF’s global climate reanalysis dataset, which includes variables such as soil moisture, air temperature and sea surface temperature will be covered, and other products covering forecasts of variables such as drought and fire will be touched upon. Obtaining data from climate projections will also be discussed. How to access ECMWF products will be explained including how to request help and find relevant documentation.  

Caitlin Lewis – School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, the University of Reading + Forest Research

The collection of meteorological and hydrological data within existing ecological monitoring networks will briefly be introduced. Existing long-term ecological research sites in the UK, Europe and globally can be a valuable source of site-specific observations sometimes left out of national scale datasets.  Accessing data from networks such as ICP Forests, European Ecological Long-Term Monitoring (eLTER), and Ecological Change networks will be explained.

Fatima Chami - JASMIN, Science and Technology Facilities Council, UKRI

We will be joined by two members from the JASMIN support team to learn how to use R on the facilitates. JASMIN is a globally-unique data analysis facility that provides storage and computing facilities to enable data-intensive environmental science for NERC-funded or related projects. The team will talk through how to get started with JASMIN, from the basics of logging in to accessing the Scientific Analysis Server to run R scripts. To help participants follow along, we will be using JASMIN training accounts, so this presentation will be more interactive. Participants will be sent further information on how to prepare for this prior to the day.

Tour of the Reading meteorological station 12:30-13:00

Lunch 13:00-14:00 – sandwich buffet and snacks provided

Afternoon workshop 14:00-17:30

Participants have an opportunity to work on tackling their own problems with downloading and processing metrological data with support and advice from demonstrators experienced in using R and Python for processing such datasets.

To maximise useful outcomes, participants will have the opportunity to send in questions/code to the demonstrators before the workshop. 

Registration [now closed]

Deadline: Monday 20th November at 23:59


Free for ialeUK members (student membership: £15/year, full membership: £30/year). Members should contact Caitlin Lewis (ialeUK PGR/EC representative) at to sign-up. Membership details available here.

£60 for non-members, £48 for student non-members.

Upon confirmation of membership/payment, participants will be sent further information on the arrangements for the day and a form to fill in.

For further information: contact Caitlin Lewis (ialeUK PGR/EC representative) at