There are lots of confusing terms in the world of climate science, meteorology, and the world of NOAA and the National Weather Service. Often somebody new to the arena can get overwhelmed by it all. So this should help.

This list was started by Philip Mulholland, posted on Dr. Roger Pielke’s website, and brought to my attention by Evan Jones in comments. I’ve added some terms relevant to this blog and I will continue to add to it.

Feel free to suggest additions/corrections in the comments below.

Climate Science Acronyms

AAAS American Academy of Arts and Sciences
AAS American Astronomical Society
AASC American Association of State Climatologists
AC Arctic Council
ACIA Arctic Climate Impact Assessment
AGU American Geophysical Union
AMB Australian Meteorological Bureau
AMS American Meteorological Society
AR4 IPCC Working Group 1 report: The Physical Basis of Climate Change
BAMS Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society
BOM-A Bureau of Meteorology, aka Australian Meteorological Bureau
CA Climate Audit website operated by Steve McIntyre
CDIAC Carbon Dioxide Information and Analysis Center (Oak Ridge, TN)
CCSP Climate Change Science Program
CERN Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire
CIRES Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences
CLOUD Cosmics Leaving OUtdoor Droplets
CPC Climate Prediction Center
CRU  Climate Research Unit
ECMWF European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts
EUMETSAT European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites
GAW Global Atmosphere Watch
GCOS Global Climate Observing System
GECC UK Global Environmental Change Committee
GISS Goddard Institute for Space Studies
GFDL Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory
GFSC Goddard Space Flight Center not to be confused with GISS
GHCC Global Hydrology & Climate Center
GOOS Global Ocean Observing System
GOS Global Observing System
GTOS Global Terrestrial Observing System
Had Met Office Hadley Center
IASC International Arctic Science Committee
ICECAP International Climate and Environmental Change Assessment Project
ICSU International Council for Science
IOC Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission
IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
MBL Marine Biological Laboratory (aka Woods Hole)
METHC Met Office Hadley Centre
NAMMA NASA African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analyses
NAS National Academy of Sciences
NASA National Aeronautics and Space Administration
NCAR National Center for Atmospheric Research
NCDC National Climatic Data Center
NCEP National Centers for Environmental Prediction
NHC National Hurricane Center
NSF National Science Foundation
NSIDC National Snow and Ice Data Center
NOAA National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration
NRC National Research Council
NRCS Natural Resources Conservation Service
NWS National Weather Service
RC Real Climate website, operated by NASA GISS
RMetS Royal Meteorological Society
RSS Remote Sensing Systems – satellite data company
SAR Second Assessment Report IPCC 1995
SPPI Science and Public Policy Institute
TAR Third Assessment Report IPCC 2001
TRMM Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission
UAH University of Alabama in Huntsville, Atmospheric Science Department
UCAR University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
USGCRP US Global Change Research Program
UNEP United Nations Environment Programme
UW University of Washington Department of Atmospheric Sciences
WGMS World Glacier Monitoring Service
WMO World Meteorological Organisation

Climate Science Abbreviations

ACIA Arctic Climate Impact Assessment
ADRF Aerosol Direct Radiative Forcing
AEW African Easterly Waves
AGHG Anthropogenic Greenhouse Gas (Anthro- man made)
AGW Anthropogenic Global Warming (Anthro- man made)
AIRF Aerosol Indirect Radiative Forcing
AMO Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation
AO Arctic Oscillation (aka NAM)
AOD Aerosol Optical Depth
AOGCM Atmosphere-Ocean General Circulation Model
ARF Aerosol Radiative Forcing
ARIMA AutoRegressive Integrated Moving Average

BT Brightness Temperature

CAGW Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (Anthro- man made)
CAPE Convective Available Potential Energy
CAS Climate Analysis System
CRS Cotton Region Shelter, another name for a Stevenson Screen
CCN Cloud Condensation Nuclei
CINE Convection Inhibition Energy
CO2 Carbon dioxide
CONUS Conterminus United States
COT Cloud Optical Thickness
CRE Cloud Radiative Effect
CRF Cosmic Ray Flux
CRII Cosmic Ray Induced Ionisation
CRN Climate Reference Network

DEAD Dust Entrainment and Deposition
DLF Downward Longwave Flux
DTR Diurnal Temperature Range
DVI Dust Veil Index

ENSO El Nino Southern Oscillation
EOF Empirical Othogonal Function

FACE Free Air Carbon Enrichment
FAR First Assessment Report IPCC 1990
FOIA Freedom of Information Act

GCM General Circulation Model
GCM Global Circulation Model
GCM Global Climate Model
GCR Galactic Cosmic Ray
GHCN Global Historical Climate Network
GHG Greenhouse Gas
GISS Goddard Institute for Space Studies (Columbia Univ, NYC. Dr. Gavin A. Schmidt)
GMST Global Mean Surface Temperature
GOSTA Global Ocean Surface Temperature Atlas
GRL Geophysical Research Letters
GW Global Warming

HadCRUT Hadley Center – Climate Research Unit Temperature
HadSST Hadley Center – Climate Research Unit Sea Surface Temperature
HMF Heliospheric Magnetic Field

IR Infra Red
IRD Ice-Rafted Debris
ISO IntraSeasonal Oscillations

LACC Low Altitude Cloud Cover
LCC Land-Cover Change
LCL Lifting Condensation Level
LFC Level of Free Convection
LFO Low-Frequency Oscillation
LGM Last Glacial Maximum
LI Lifted Index
LIA Little Ice Age
LNB Level of Neutral Bouyancy
LTS Lower-Tropospheric Stability
LUC Land-Use Change
LW LongWave aka LWIR, below
LWC Liquid Water Content
LWIR Long Wave Infra Red

MAGICC Model for the Assessment of Greenhouse gas Induced Climate Change
MAT Marine Air Temperature

MEP Member of European Parliment

MJO Madden-Julian Oscillation
MMTS Max Min Temperature System (thermometer used in USHCN)
MODIS Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer
MPA Mobile Polar Anticyclone
MSD Mean Square Differences
MSLP Mean Sea-Level Pressure
MSU Microwave Sounding Unit
MWP Medieval Warm Period

NADW North Atlantic Deep Water
NARR North American Regional Reanalysis
NAM Northern Annular Mode (aka AO)
NAO North Atlantic Oscillation
NATL North Atlantic Tropical Latitude
NH Northern Hemisphere
NPO North Pacific Oscillation
NWP Numerical Weather Prediction

OMR Observation Minus Reanalysis
OPAC Optical Properties of Aerosol and Cloud

PDF Probability Distribution Function
PDO Pacific Decadal Oscillation
PDI Palmer Drought Index (Moisture)
PDI Power Dissipation Index (Hurricanes)
POD Period of Data

QBO Quasi-Biennial zonal wind Oscillation

RCM Regional Climate Model

SAR Synthetic Aperture Radar
SAT Surface Air Temperature
SCENGEN A regional climate SCENario GENerator
SLP Sea Level Pressure
SOI Southern Oscillation Index
SRES Special Report on Emissions Scenarios
SST Sea Surface Temperature
STS Sub Tropical Storms
SW ShortWave

THC Thermo-Haline Circulation (wow, look at the colors)
TOA Top of Atmosphere
TSI Total Solar Irradiance

UHI Urban Heat Island
USHCN US Historical Climate Network

54 thoughts on “Glossary

  1. Anthony,
    In your Glossary, the abbreviation AGW is missing.

    REPLY: Done, thanks. Sometimes the most obvious ones are the hardest to think to include.

    Your website is excellent. Thank you very much.

    Jean Meeus (retired Belgian meteorologist, but still
    active in astronomy)

  2. Dear Anthony,

    Thanks for the glossary! I reckon it could save 100,000 people a few dozen ‘googles’ a month…

    I think you missed CRN in your list, while CCSP, GISS, NOAA, UNEP and CRS are a just off their mark, alphabetically.

  3. Dear Anthony,

    I found another one you may want to include: GHCN.

    By the way: even though the list probably looks nicer and more organised in its current arrangement, wouldn’t you agree that it would be more convenient for lay readers (like myself) to merge the two parts of the glossary into one big list? – Or has my layziness (sorry) really gotten to my head on this one?

    REPLY: Thanks, will add.

  4. UTWV = upper troposphere water vapor
    DWR downwelling radiation
    OLR outgoing longwave radiation
    SL sea level
    SLR sea level rise

    NIPCC Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change
    NACC (US) National Assessment of Climate Change
    CCSP (US) Climate Change Science Program

  5. Anthony,

    Lazy poet that I am, it would be nice if I could click on a acronym in a comment and see its definition. Also, big words. I wonder if there is a program that might automatically do that?

    Some people are never satisfied :)

    Love your site.

    REPLY: I Can’t help with the automated acronyms, but I do have a glossary link at the top of the page.

    As for “big words”, how about “Milankovitch Pleistocene climate variation” ;-)

    If you want large text, hold down the CTRL key and turn your center mouse scroll wheel and you’ll be able to make the text bigger or smaller.

    Or if you don’t have a mouse wheel use the key combination CTRL and + or CTRL and – to change size.

  6. Anthropo(s) = man in Greek. Not anthro as you indicate

    Genic is from verb geno in Greek, meaning giving birth

    Anthropogenic = given birth by man or technically speaking, man generated

    By the way, Greco says that driving an electric car does not do any good to environment unless you re-charge it using solar power.

    Actually, if you re-charge it using the electricity plug, you may be doing more harm to environment that when using conventional ICE car.

    Greco says your blog is anthropo-eccentric


    REPLY: See my about page for what I’ve done with solar power

  7. The Hot Water Bottle Effect
    By Stephen Wilde in CO2sceptics

    (THWBE) An alternate to the greenhouse effect…

  8. CONUS –

    When I was in the Air Force, it meant the Continental U. S., including Alaska. The Coterminous (equally Conterminous, both ending in ‘ous’) meant the lower 48. Don’t know whether Alaska is included or not in meteorological usage, but that makes the difference.

  9. Evan didn’t post this here:

    evanjones (22:05:23) :

    What means TOBS, SHAP, FILNET ?

    Heads up! These are not in the Glossary and they definitely should be.

    TOBS = Time of Observation bias. Depending on what 24-hour periods you use, you can get some very interesting distortions of the data. The TOBS correction fixes this.

    SHAP = Station History Adjustment Program. This adjusts for station moves or urban creep. (Or else it doesn’t!) Bad/Incomplete SHAP is at the heart of the surface station problems.

    FILNET = A program that fills in a station’s missing data by means of an interpolation algorithm. A subject of great controversy. One of the great advantages of automated collection of data is that it cuts out the “human element” and (in theory) leaves no gaps in the data record.

  10. Anthony, even though I am an agnostic, I can’t help but say “Bless You”. Your and similar BLOGs are doing the world a great service. Please keep up the outstanding work.

  11. Anthony,

    Just found this resource, thank you for the attribution.
    Email me if you would like a copy of my current list.


  12. Very interesting site, but really this is more of an acronym list rather than a glossary.
    For instance, Pacific Decadal Oscillation means nothing more to me than PDO does.
    Is there any type of online primer that you recommend?

  13. I would include JMA (Japan Meteorological Agency).

    Altough it is not widely known, but JMA publishes its own global surface temperature series on a monthly basis. According to JMA global temperature data, the warmest year globally since 1891 was 1998. Their long-term trend estimate is 0.68°c/century, while it is essentially zero for the last 15 years (1997-2011).

    Their global temperature page is available here:
    Monthly anomaly maps:

  14. Appreciate it for all your efforts that you have put in this. very interesting information. “You can’t help someone get up a hill without getting closer to the top yourself.” by Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf.

  15. Excellent. When I started reading this blog a few years ago the fog of acronyms was a big problem.

    Now, PLEASE, add a section on abbreviations, such as h/t, IMO, IMHO etc etc.

    Not all those that you sue are common outside the USA.


  16. Perhaps a section of the Glossary or even another selection under “Resources” that would list some of the names of those involved and what they did or do?

Leave a Reply - if your comment doesn't appear right away, it may have been intercepted by the SPAM filter. Please have patience while our moderation team examines it.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.