Climate is integral to the geophysical foundation upon which ecosystems are structured. Knowledge about mechanistic linkages between the geophysical and biological environments is essential for understanding how global warming may reshape contemporary ecosystems and ecosystem services. Numerous global data sources spanning several decades are available that document key geophysical metrics such as temperature and precipitation, and metrics of primary biological production such as vegetation phenology and ocean phytoplankton. This paper provides an internet directory to portals for visualizing or servers for downloading many of the more commonly used global datasets, as well as a description of how to write simple computer code to efficiently retrieve these data. The data are broadly useful for quantifying relationships between climate, habitat availability, and lower-trophic-level habitat quality - especially in Arctic regions where strong seasonality is accompanied by intrinsically high year-to-year variability. If defensible linkages between the geophysical (climate) and the biological environment can be established, general circulation model (GCM) projections of future climate conditions can be used to infer future biological responses. Robustness of this approach is, however, complicated by the number of direct, indirect, or interacting linkages involved. For example, response of a predator species to climate change will be influenced by the responses of its prey and competitors, and so forth throughout a trophic web. The complexities of ecological systems warrant sensible and parsimonious approaches for assessing and establishing the role of natural climate variability in order to substantiate inferences about the potential effects of global warming.