Climate Data

IBTrACS: Tropical cyclone best track data

IBTrACS (International Best Track Archive for Climate Stewardship) provides global tropical cyclone best track data in a centralized location to aid our understanding of the distribution, frequency, and intensity of tropical cyclones worldwide. The World Meteorological Organization Tropical Cyclone Programme has endorsed IBTrACS as an official archiving and distribution resource for tropical cyclone best track data. The data are available in many formats. The IBTrACS-WMO version of the data set uses data from the WMO-sanctioned RSMC/TCWC in each basin.

Key Strengths:

  • Consolidates global tropical cyclone data at a central location.
  • Available in a single file or subsets.
  • This is the most complete global set of historical tropical cyclones available. It includes data from 12 different agencies or historical databases

Key Limitations:

  • Changing operational procedures and observing systems have led to significant heterogeneities in the best track record.
  • Storms may have conflicting data from multiple sources.
  • WMO sanction North Indian Ocean data only goes back to 1990 at this time (2/2012).

Expert User Guidance

IBTrACS-ALL has data from over a dozen different sources that sometimes give 4 or more answers for the same storm. That's good for someone who is interested in the problems between agencies, but it confuses a lot of users. The WMO dataset just uses data from the WMO-sanctioned RSMC/TCWC in each basin, so it's one answer per storm. Carl Schreck, CICS-NC, 10 Feb 2012

temporal metadataID:


Data Time Period Extended?

yes, data set is extended


Vertical Levels

Earth system components and main variables

Suggested Data Citation

Please reference Knapp et al 2010 when using IBTrACS data in any publication. 

Knapp, K. R., M. C. Kruk, D. H. Levinson, H. J. Diamond, and C. J. Neumann, 2010:
The International Best Track Archive for Climate Stewardship (IBTrACS): Unifying tropical cyclone best track data.
Bulletin of the American Meteor. Society, 91, 363-376. doi:10.1175/2009BAMS2755.1

Data Access: Please Cite data sources, following the data providers' instructions.

Key Figures

Click the thumbnails to view larger sizes



Time series of the various NAO and NAM indices. They are highly correlated.
Tropical storm and hurricane tracks (120W-GM) in 2005. Contributed by Carl Schreck (CICS-NC, NOAA-NCDC).
Initial locations for all tropical cyclones (120W-GM) in 2005. Contributed by Carl Schreck (CICS-NC, NOAA-NCDC).
Outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) for 28 August 2005. From left to right, hurricane symbols denote the locations of Tropical Storm Irwin, Hurricane Katrina, and Tropical Storm Lee. Contributed by Carl Schreck (CICS-NC, NOAA-NCDC).
Longitude–time Hovmöller of outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) averaged 2.5N–17.5N. Hurricane symbols denote the genesis locations of all tropical cyclones. Red-filled symbols are Northern Hemisphere storms, while Southern Hemisphere storms are filled with Blue. Contributed by Carl Schreck (CICS-NC, NOAA-NCDC).

Cite this page

Schreck, Carl & National Center for Atmospheric Research Staff (Eds). Last modified 06 Nov 2013. "The Climate Data Guide: IBTrACS: Tropical cyclone best track data." Retrieved from

Acknowledgement of any material taken from this page is appreciated. On behalf of experts who have contributed data, advice, and/or figures, please cite their work as well.