“Disrupt Climate Data” Challenge

Learn | Code | Solve

Enter for a chance to win a $5,000 cash prize!



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The Ontario Climate Consortium welcomes you to its first-ever climate data competition — part of our 2017 Ontario Climate Symposium at York University.

We invite laboratories at academic institutions and students from Ontario Universities in any discipline and all levels of experience to come together to participate in the development of an innovative programming and design solution to a practical climate change data problem.

Participate to solve real-world problems, network with our mentors, win prizes, and get a better understanding of the opportunities that exist.



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Climate change remains one of the most important issues of our time. Access to reliable, understandable climate data that is easy to use, yet captures the complexities and uncertainty of climate modeling, is paramount to reducing climate impacts and risk.

Many users in Ontario have encountered difficulty in understanding the data they are obtaining online — and, in particular, the uncertainties associated with it.

Geographic information systems and maps (like this one) have been used to display and communicate climate data, but uncertainty remains a difficult aspect to incorporate and interpret.

Your challenge is to disrupt the way climate data is currently displayed online, to make it more accessible and understandable. We want you to challenge the status quo, and consider new and innovative ways to display, communicate and represent the uncertainty within a climate dataset. For example, many data portals present future climate variables as ‘averages’ without mention of the full range of model projections; while others attempt to display uncertainty visually as an image (e.g., similar to the ‘gauge panel’ shown on this data portal) or in a graph form (e.g., box and whisker plots).

Our hope is that through this challenge, you or your team can create a tool, a widget, a graph or a a type of visual through code that can be used or embedded in existing data portals online to improve users’ experience and understanding.




  • Individuals and teams of 3-5 people maximum need to register by April 21st, 2017 (please see registration instructions).
  • Once registered, you will receive a confirmation of your participation in the event (see important dates). This will include a package with the climate model dataset everyone will be working with.
  • We encourage you or your team to begin to work on a solution before the competition date; however, access to mentors will only be available on the day of the event. There will be approximately six hours to develop or adjust your solution during the two days of the Symposium.
  • Desk space will be provided at the event. Please bring any materials you may need to develop your solution (e.g., your laptop, charger, software, scripts, copies of the registration package, notebook, notes, etc.).
  • Feel free to build your solution from scratch or leverage existing software available to them to build their solutions*. If you require any software for creating your solution, you are expected to bring software pre-installed (licenses or software will not be provided).

* Participants are not allowed to submit content that is copyrighted.



  • There will be two rounds of judging during the competition; both occurring on Day Two of the symposium.
  •  During Round One, judges will hear the preliminary pitches from all teams and fill out a scoring sheet on each team. Teams will then have time to update or make final changes to their pitches.
  • Round Two will occur in the late afternoon and each team will make their final pitches to the judges, followed by the announcement of the winner.
  • The top five project teams will pitch their solution on the main stage.
  • A winner will be announced after the Second Round.

The panel of judges who will be evaluating your innovative ideas at the event will be announced online shortly. Stay tuned!



   Day One: May 11, 2017
   4:30 PM – 4:45 PM    Registration
   4:45 PM – 5:30 PM    Introduction & Overview
   5:30 PM – 6:30 PM    Meeting with Mentors
   6:30 PM – 7:30 PM    Time to Build Your Solution
   Day Two: May 12, 2017
   9:00 AM – 12:00 PM    Time to Build Your Solution
   12:00 PM – 1:00 PM    Working Lunch (Provided)
   1:00 PM – 3:15 PM    Time to Build Your Solution
   3:15 PM – 4:00 PM     First Evaluation Round
   4:00 PM – 5:00 PM     Presentation of Pitches to Judges
   5:00 PM – 5:15 PM    Winners Announced


*Notes: 1) Food, coffee, tea and other snacks and refreshments will be provided for free at regular intervals throughout the challenge. 2) Teams can spend time building their solutions in advance of the event – resource packages, including the dataset that all teams will be working with, will be circulated April 6th, 2017. 



Please complete the registration form and we will be in touch. More details are available in the Comprehensive Registration Package below.



If you have any questions, please email GMilner@trca.on.ca.

*Note: There is no cost to participate in the Disrupt Climate Data Challenge. However, if you would like to attend plenary sessions or presentations taking place at the Ontario Climate Symposium that do not conflict with this event (on Day 1 or Day 2), please register for a spot accordingly.


The Disrupt Climate Data Challenge will take place in the Lounge within the Health, Nursing and Environmental Studies (HNES) building at, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, Ontario, M3J 1P3.

The Lounge is located on the first floor just outside of Room 140. Keep an eye out for signs posted in the HNES building on May 11th and 12th to find your way there!



What can I bring into the event?
Your laptop, charger and anything else you’ll need to code on.

What is the dress code for the event?
The competition will be taking place at a broader research symposium and thus we suggest business casual clothing.

How can I contact the organizer with any questions?
Contact us by email: GMilner@trca.on.ca.

Can I update my registration information?
Yes, you can. Please email GMilner@trca.on.ca if you have already registered and have updated information.

Does this challenge focus on data visualization or data analysis?
This challenge is likely more data visualization than data analysis; but if you know a way to incorporate elements of both we would absolutely welcome that as well. Our intent is to provide teams with daily time series data from a climate model ensemble for two particular variables (e.g., precipitation and air temperature) and provide access to mentors to discuss and scope teams’ ideas.

What is the main goal of the challenge?
The main goal of the challenge is to improve the way uncertainty is incorporated, is displayed or presented in climate data online to users. For instance, many data portals present future climate variables as ‘averages’ without mention of the full range of model projections; while other online portals attempt to display uncertainty visually as an image (e.g., similar to the ‘gauge panel’ shown on this data portal) or in a graph form (e.g., box and whisker plots). Our hope is that through this challenge, teams can create a tool, a widget, a graph or some sort of visual through code (we’re leaving it quite open for your own interpretation) that can be used or embedded in existing data portals online to improve users’ experience and understanding.

How are solutions going to be used?
It is our hope that solutions can be leveraged, developed and applied to existing online data portals. For example, one funder and attendee of the event is staff from the climate modeling division with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change; they are very interested in seeing what comes out of this challenge and if it can be used in their own online data portals.

What will be the format of the data we receive?
Data will be provided in an Excel file for easy reference and download. However, you are free to export and access it from any other file types more comfortable to you (e.g., .txt, .dat, etc.).

Can you describe the data we will receive?
Daily time series data will be provided over thirty year periods for two climate variables: 1) Mean Air Temperature [degC] and 2) Total Precipitation [mm/day]. These climate variables will be provided for five climate models, which make up an “Ensemble”. It is up to you to display the range and uncertainty for the same climate variable(s) projected by these five different models.

Note: You are not required to use the data from both, though your solution will be evaluated for how scalable or applicable it is to a wider variety of climate variables so using both variables may be an advantage.

What method(s) do I need to use for my solution?
We do not require any particular type of method to be used in your solution. We welcome various methods, coding languages, and skills you can bring to the table as part of your solution. For instance, you are not required to use a particular type of coding language – feel free to use your favourite (e.g., Matlab, VB, Python, etc.).

Will data be provided for one specific location or for a large area requiring spatial averaging and interpolation?
All climate data is provided for one particular location (one model grid cell). Therefore, no spatial averaging or interpolation will be required. For reference, the climate data is representative of York University at the following (grid cell, centroid) coordinates: 43.76, 280.41

Does filling out the registration form guarantee me a spot at the event?
We would like to accept everyone but this may not be feasible due to limited venue space. Please submit your registration information (See instructions above) and we will review all applications and email those who are successful.





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