Climate Window Analysis

Contains functions to detect and visualise periods of climate sensitivity (climate windows) for a given biological response.

climwin is designed for those interested in understanding the impacts of climate, particularly on biological systems. When seeking to understand the effects of climate it is neccesary to select a sampling period over which climate is recorded, a climate window. Often this choice is made arbitrarily, with many studies using seasonal values (e.g. spring temperature, winter precipitation). However, these climate windows may not be the most relevant for the biological system in question. If we fail to find a relationship between climate and the biological response it can be difficult to determine whether this is due to climate insensitivity in the biological response or if the choice of climate window is flawed.

Rather than being required to make a single arbitrary choice of climate window, climwin allows users to test the effectiveness of a wide range of possible climate windows with the aim of identifying the most appropriate climate window for further use. climwin gives users to ability to visualise the results of their climate window analysis, using ggplot2, as a means to best interpret and understand the climate window results.

To install:

  • latest released version: install.packages("climwin")

How to use climwin:

Examples for both climate window analysis and plotting are provided in the package help documentation. See library(help = "climwin") once installed for more detail.

For more detailed insight on how to use climwin to investigate climate data see our introductory vignette using vignette("climwin", package = "climwin"), or our more advanced vignette with vignette("advanced_climwin", package = "climwin").

To access the current beta version please visit our github repository (LiamDBailey/climwin).


climwin 1.1.0

Our newest version adds a number of useful features to climwin as well as a few bug fixes. In addition, we have now created a climwin google group for users to ask questions about the package. Please report any errors or bugs on this forum.

In older versions of climwin, climate data was extracted from the fitted climate window and included as a fixed effect in the specified baseline model. This precluded the use of more complex model structures, such as interactions between climate and other fixed effects or mixed effects models with random climate slopes. We now include a more versatile method for specifying model structure in climwin. This involves the inclusion of a dummy 'climate' variable in the baseline model (N.B. the variable must be called 'climate'). This dummy variable will then be replaced with climate data from each fitted climate window, maintaining the original model structure. See an example of baseline model structure below:

baseline = lm(response ~ climate*sex)

Using this more versatile model construction makes the argument func redundant (i.e. the argument used to specify quadratic, cubic etc. terms). Users can now structure their model manually to test for these effects.

Note: We have maintained functionality for the original baseline model design. If no variable called 'climate' is provided the original method will be used.

In previous verisons, the argument cmissing could be designated as either TRUE or FALSE. When FALSE, the presence of missing values in any tested climate window would return an error. When TRUE, all climate windows containing missing values would be removed from our analysis. On further consideration, we felt it was unwise to remove data from our analysis. As an alternative, we now provide two methods to estimate the value of NA records. "method1" will replace the value of a missing cell with the mean of the two preceding and following records. "method2" will replace the value of a missing cell with the mean of all other records on the same date. For more detial on dealing with missing data please read our FAQ.

As weightwin uses an optimisation function, there is the possibility that the function may fail to converge or will converge on a local optima. Because of these issues, a single run of weightwin may not provide an accurate measure of the climate landscape. Users should instead run multiple iterations of weightwin with varying starting parameters to help find the global optima. The argument n in weightwin allows users to specify the number of iterations to run, with starting parameters randomly assigned in each run. weightwin will then return a summary table of results from all iterations.

The original design of climwin required users to provide their climate data at a daily resolution, even if users had only a single recorded value across each month/week. This caused some confusion with users. climwin can now deal with climate data at a monthly or weekly resolution (i.e. one record for each month/week). Running climate window analysis at a monthly or weekly scale also provides a method for dealing with missing climate data.

climwin 1.0.0

climwin version 1.0.0 includes a number of major changes to coincide with the release of our corresponding paper [1]. We have tried to make most of our changes backwards compatible, but any major issues should be reported to the package maintainer (

climwin aims to distinguish between two separate methods for testing climate windows. The commonly used sliding window approach [1] and less common weighted window approach [2]. To ensure the distinction between these two methods is clear, the function climatewin has been made redundant and been replaced with the function slidingwin. Parameters used in slidingwin and climatewin are identical. Users can now conduct a sliding window analysis using slidingwin and a weighted window analysis using weightwin.

The function randwin can now also be used to conduct randomisations with a weighted window approach (i.e. using the function weightwin). Users must now define whether randomisations are to be conducted using a sliding window ("sliding") or weighted window ("weighted") approach with the parameter 'window'. Note that all parameters from weightwin will be required to run randwin using a weighted window approach (e.g. 'par', 'weightfunc').

When a group of biological measurements covers two years (e.g. Southern hemisphere species which breed between November - February [2]) use of 'absolute' climate windows will cause these measurements to be split across different calendar years. To overcome this issue, we include a 'cohort' parameter to our functions.

The cohort variable will determine which biological measurements should be grouped together (e.g. measurements from the same breeding season), and ensure that these measurements share the same reference day. The cohort variable should come from the same dataset as the 'bdate' parameter (i.e. variables should have equal lengths).

See our advanced vignette for more details:

vignette("advanced_climwin", package = "climwin")

Climate window analysis often requires large amounts of data to effectively determine periods of climate sensitivity. Often this is achieved through temporal replication (collecting many years of data on the same population) but can also be achieved through spatial replication (collecting data on multiple populations), or, ideally, a combination of the two. The new parameter 'spatial' allows users to carry out a climate window analysis with data from multiple populations by linking each set of biological measurements to a corresponding set of climate data.

Users can include data from multiple study sites/populations in their climate dataset (i.e. the dataset used for parameters 'cdate' and 'xvar'), with a new site ID variable included to distinguish between different sites. Similarly, the user can add a new site ID variable to the biological dataset that can be used to link biological measurements to the corresponding climate data. When carrying out analyses the user can then include the parameter 'spatial', a list item, containing the biological site ID variable and climate site ID variable respectively. During model fitting, the climate window analysis will extract different climate data for each biological record based on the provided site ID.

N.B. Spatial replication in climate window analysis works on the assumption that all populations share the same period of climate sensitivity. If this is NOT the case, populations should be analysed separately.

See our advanced vignette for more details:

vignette("advanced_climwin", package = "climwin")

Proportional hazard models may often be useful for climate window analyses on phenological data. We have included the ability for users to fit proportional hazard models for the parameter 'baseline' using the function coxph. For more detail on understanding the use of proportional hazard models for phenology analysis see [2].

In previous versions of climwin climate windows have been compared visually using a number of methods (e.g. deltaAICc distribution, model weights). In this newest version, we have included two metrics that allow for a standard method of distinguishing real periods of climate sensitivity in biological data.

These two metrics, $P_{C}$ and $P_{\Delta AICc}$, determine the likelihood that a given climate window would occur by chance, given the results of a randwin analysis on the same data. They can be calculated using the new function pvalue. For more information on the effectiveness of the new metrics, please see [1].

Although climwin helps us move away from the selection of arbitrary climate windows the method is inherently exploratory, raising concerns about overfitting. Climate data from short duration time windows are particularly likely to show spurious relationships in climate window analysis [1]. The inclusion of the function pvalue (above) reduces the chance that these short duration windows will be mistaken as 'real' climate signals; however, these spurious windows can still cause problems when conducting multi-model inferencing as the short duration windows may be distinctly different from other top models. As a solution, we include the parameter 'exclude' in the functions slidingwin and randwin. This allows users to exclude windows of a specific duration and lag to prevent these small windows from interfering with analyses.

Parameter changes:

  • 'furthest' and 'closest' are now combined into a single parameter 'range'.

  • '' and 'cutoff.month' are now combined into a single parameter 'refday'.

  • 'cvk' parameter is now redundant, replaced with parameter 'k'.

  • 'thresh' parameter is now redundant, replaced with parameter 'binary'.

  • 'type' now accepts possible arguments 'absolute' and 'relative' (rather than 'fixed' and 'variable').

climwin 0.1.2

Fixed bug which caused convergence issues using cross-validation.

climwin 0.1.1

Fixed serious bug causing an error in 'plotwin' and 'plotall'. Naming mismatch in the 'closest' column in climatewin$Dataset. Column name changes from Closest to closest.

climwin 0.1.0

Our newest release aims to speed up the functions and provide greater versatility to users. In addition, we have produced a vignette providing a detailed introduction on how to use the climwin package. See vignette("climwin") for more.

We have made some changes to the names and levels or parameters that should be checked in the help documentation.

  • Changes to parameter names and levels (e.g. Cinterval levels are now in the format "day", "week", "month" rather than "D", "W", "M"). Please check the help documentation of each function to familiarise yourself with the new function wording.

  • Function climatewin (and corresponding functions) now contains parameter CVK. This provides the ability to run k-fold cross validation during climate window analysis. This provides a further check against finding strong climate signals by chance.

  • Function climatewin (and corresponding functions) now contains parameters upper, lower and thresh. These allow users to adapt their climate data to consider climatic thresholds. This will be useful for those interested in investigating topics like growing degree or chill days.

  • Function climatewin (and corresponding functions) now contains parameter centre. This allows users to carry out within-group centreing with their climate data. Note that within-group centreing will only test linear relationships.

  • Function climatewin now includes functionality to test multiple parameter combinations (e.g. func = c("lin", "quad")) in succession. Please see the vignette vignette("climwin") for more detail.

  • Function crosswin now includes parameter stat2. This allows users to test the correlation between two climate variables using different aggregate statistics (e.g. Mean temperature and minimum rainfall).

  • The parameter Xvar must now be a list item (e.g. Xvar = list(MassClimate$Temp))

climwin 0.0.1

  • Initial package release. Forthcoming changes will be noted.

Reference manual

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1.1.0 by Liam D. Bailey, 2 months ago

Report a bug at

Browse source code at

Authors: Liam D. Bailey and Martijn van de Pol

Documentation:   PDF Manual  

GPL-2 license

Imports evd, lubridate, lme4, MuMIn, reshape, plyr, numDeriv, RcppRoll

Depends on ggplot2, gridExtra, Matrix

Suggests testthat, knitr, rmarkdown

See at CRAN