Drought in the Midwest; forest fires in the Southwest; blizzards and hurricanes on the East Coast; rising ocean levels on both coasts.

If you're wondering what to make of the crazy weather of the past few years, maybe it's time to check out some of the iPhone and Android apps you can use to study climate change and global warming.

Quite a few are devoted to the still-contentious issue. Many are for the Apple (AAPL) operating system, but there are some in the Android app store too.

By making the science visual, some of these apps let the nonprofessional see historic trends without having to wade through thousands of spreadsheets and databases.

What follows are a few selected apps. This list is not comprehensive, and is intended merely as a starting point.

Climate Mobile (GeoOptics, a climate data company) Free. iOS

This is a treasure house of data, animations, charts and graphs, produced by GeoOptics, a Boulder, Colo., based startup that markets climate and weather information, mainly to governments.

GeoOptics' founder, Thomas Yunck, says he spent three years producing it as a hobby.

"You have all these people arguing over the Web but they are not looking at data," said Yunck, a physicist who for many years worked on climate applications at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.


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"I thought, 'Why don't I just learn how to write an app and put the data where people can pick them up and look at them?' "

Touching one of 10 buttons on the Climate Mobile home screen brings up a sub-screen of a particular type of climate information. And touching that sub-screen brings up another, with many more choices.

"If you have questions about what's happening to the trends, it's all there in these data sets," Yunck said. "You can grab them, plot them, do some smoothing. You will find there has been no pause in the increasing trend of global warming." There have been 30,000 downloads, he said.

Just Science (Novim, Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature study group) Free. iOS

This app presents a video of global warming using data gathered by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature group, which is led by UC Berkeley physicist Richard Muller. Run the video and you can see the gradual, then accelerating warming of the Earth from 1800 to 2009.

Muller -- who was skeptical of the data behind global warming studies -- and a team of 15 scientists analyzed 1.6 billion temperature readings from 39,000 weather stations scattered around the world. Some of the earliest data was collected by Benjamin Franklin.

The group found that the Earth's temperature has risen about 1.5 degrees Celsius in the past 250 years, and about 0.9 degrees in the past 50 years. Muller reported that the human contribution is approximately 0.6 degrees.

"One of the challenges we face in everything we do is how do you present that to the public in a way they can understand it," said Michael Ditmore, who runs UC Santa Barbara-based Novim, which funded the study. "We thought an app was best way to do it."

It's been downloaded 10,000 times, Ditmore said.

EarthObserver (Columbia University, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, New York) 99 cents. iOS

This app contains a wealth of data from Columbia University's website of geological and ocean environmental data. It works best with a tablet.

"It's not an app about global warming, but the data sets that go into global warming are there," said its developer, retired Earth environmental sciences professor Bill Ryan.

The home screen shows a contour map of Earth. Tap it anywhere and you get an altitude reading. Press an arrow and a menu of overlays pops up. With any overlay, you can tap anywhere to get a localized reading.

There are free companion applications that run on a PC with Windows, Unix/Linux or Mac OS X. They can be used to display the EarthObserver content. The app has been downloaded 80,000 times, according to Ryan.

Global Warming Prediction (KnowledgeMiner Software) Free. iOS

This is a contrarian site run by a company that makes data mining software. The Global Warming Prediction Project's website says this about the human contribution to global warming in the form of carbon dioxide:

"To say it up front: It is NOT CO2," says a posting on the app (and companion website) from last year. "Not necessarily and not exclusively. Looking at observational data by high-performance self-organizing predictive knowledge mining, it is not confirmed that atmospheric CO2 is the major force of global warming."

This app combines a simulation of global warming with a news site containing summaries and links to some scientific papers on the subject of climate change, and links to the papers and summaries of them.

Skeptical Science (Shine Technologies) Free. Android. iOS

The app was developed by John Cook, an Australian physics grad and post-grad major in solar science.

A team of experts offers responses to the most frequently used arguments against climate change and global warming.

So, if you're a committed skeptic, here's where to go.

"There is a pattern in all global warming skeptic arguments," Cook writes in an introductory message. "They focus on a single piece of the puzzle while ignoring the broader picture."

World Bank Climate Change DataFinder 2.5 (World Bank) Free. iOS

This app brings up selected data sets on climate change that you can view by country, topic and various indicators such as climate, emissions and energy use and a population's exposure.

The data include projected annual temperature and precipitation change, areas and populations that are most exposed to impacts, CO2 emissions and much more.

There's also a list of "national level actions" to reduce the impact of global warming for each country.

Contact Pete Carey at 408-920-5419.

Climate apps

Here are a few climate apps for Apple and Android. More on Page 3:
Apple's iOS:
Climate Mobile (GeoOptics): Free. Comprehensive data for analysis.
Just Science (Novim): Free. Visualizes findings of UC Berkeley group.
EarthObserver (Columbia University): 99 cents. Science site with lots of data.
Android:
Climate Eyes (Ironbit Digital Experiences): Free. Timeline tools and maps.
MyClimate (MyAndroidable): Free. Test your knowledge.
Global Warming (Deep Powder Software): $1.25 Terminology, definitions, statistics, and organizations.
Apple's iOS:
Global Warming Prediction (KnowledgeMiner): Free. Contrarian site that challenges theories of human contribution to global warming.
World Bank Climate Change DataFinder 2.5 (World Bank): Free. Data arranged by country, region and subject.
Arctic Watch (Press Start Studios): Free. Focuses on melting of polar ice caps.
Android:
Climate Change Info (BAWidgets): Free. Climate change information and news.
Climate Change News (HippyApps): Free. News about global warming, climate change and initiatives.
Climate Change Challenge (Supreme Master Television): Free. A vegan approach to climate change.
Android and iOS
Skeptical Science (Shine Technologies): Free. Arguments to counter climate change skeptics.