One Of The Most Convincing Climate Change Visualisations We've Ever Seen

One of the Most Convincing Climate Change Visualisations We've Ever Seen

But we had so much snow this winter! But it's only a couple degrees! But the temperature in my hometown feels fine! We've heard it all from climate change deniers. This elegant visualisation ought to scare a few straight.

The data supporting climate change is undeniable; we live in a hot world that's getting hotter. And yet, even though that change is easy to document, it's sometimes hard to get people to really see the overall climate trend when they're thinking mostly about the weather they are personally experiencing. That's why this mesmerising new graph from climate scientist Ed Hawkins of the National Centre for Atmospheric Science at the University of Reading gives such an excellent overview of what's really going on.

In the graph, Hawkins charts out every month's temperature change since the 1850s into an outward expanding spirograph of climate data. Hawkins was also one of the contributing authors to the IPCC's 5th climate assessment, which was full of plenty of alarming climate graphics and predictions of its own. This new presentation of that same climate data, though, lets the noise of tiny variations fade into the background while still showcasing, very simply, the undeniable trend.

"I think there is lots to see — variations from month to month and decade to decade," Hawkins told Gizmodo. "I wanted to try and visualise the changes we have seen in different ways to learn about how we might improve our communication. The spiral appeared to present the information in an appealing and straightforward way. The pace of change is immediately obvious, especially over the past few decades. The relationship between current global temperatures and the internationally discussed target limits are also clear without much complex interpretation needed."

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    Nice work. Hope this serves as a wake up call for those hoping that climate change will not be a problem in their lifetime. It's ardly surprising that most of the worlds top economic experts see Climate Change and not fixing it ASAP as the number one threat to the global economy.

      We're all smart people here, we all know what a proxy is - a substitute.. Ever wonder why paleobotanical proxy temperature values are used as validation of past temperatures from eons back, but they're not used today? It's mainly because current living trees exhibit a range of growth patterns in their rings that don't correlate to any one factor, even in a single climate zone (climates are zonal) sunlight, CO2 levels, competing plants, water, even fungal species which provide microrrhyzal association affect the development of trees.
      And what happened to glacial proxies - they were thrown into doubt when it was discovered contrary to logic and common knowledge to form from the bottom up rather than the top down! Seemed glacial growth was a product of meltwater freezing *under* glaciers, raising them - so all data was actually reversed.. old ice was at the top, fresh ices below.
      And then there was the discovery that ice, just like geological rock formations, fold and reshape across time and unless you know the age of the strata and the position - all information is guesswork.
      But the main issue is, why mix proxies with realworld data? If the proxies are so accurate from thousands of years back, why stop using them and switch to mercury thermometers, and then switch again to thermometers accurate to 1/10th of a degree? (assuming they're calibrated)
      Surely if the proxy data was robust you can continue to use the same proxies - trees from 1950, 1990, etc, or glacial cores from 2010.. or ice from 1980? Nope, because the proxies don't match the data taken by direct measurement.
      For once it would be nice to see data collected from proxies continued into modern times accurately so they could be compared to measured values. The problem with much of what is called science is, a lot is still subjective and open to interpretation (ie, not science). Sure the *tools* of science are used, just as they are in hair analysis, which is also far from an objective science and more akin to an art.

    Governments are mostly talking about ways to address climate change and also live with the changes that are now inevitable. The deniers are not being listened to. The argument happened and now it's over regardless of attempts from some to continue it. We've already wasted nearly 30 years trying to decide if human activity based climate change is happening. I'm glad we are seeing some action.

      "The deniers are not being listened to." Isn't there some first-world country that repealed a carbon tax a few years ago and has no decent roadmap to reducing future emissions? Can't remember the name, I think it starts with "A."

        I think it was called "Abbottland"

          Abbottland tried to reinvent itself as Turnbulltopia. But that was a failed experiment.

        Well, carbon pricing was replaced with some other crap policies, so that act was not directly an act of denial, but one championed by a denier. The point is that the reality is accepted and being acted on -

      Not a great deal of action from our honourable leaders. Australia's stalled / gone backwards since 2013. Sorry to politicise the discussion, but "glad we are seeing some action" isn't ringing true to my ears currently.

      The deniers have changed tactics. You now look like a bit of an idiot saying climate change isn't happening, because it is and we can all see that in the visualisation above. Now they tell us it can't easily be fixed, It's going to cost $600Billion according the the Murdoch/LNP. The same elitists, backed by fossil fuels money who wanted us to believe they were science experts, now want to us think they are economic experts. Wrong and wrong...

    We should encourage warming, warmer is nicer, and more C02=much greener earth, what not too love, earth has been too cold for too long.

    by the way, measurements before satellites are utter BS, mostly northern hemisphere only, not ocean, close to hot cities ( they need to be so adjusted that they loose significance)

    Even if we stopped all carbon emmissions now it would take many decades or centuries to go back to normal. And we can't just stop it all. There is not really much we can do.

      "My car is about to crash into a tree. I'm going too fast to come to a full stop before I hit the tree. There is not really much I can do. Guess there's no point taking my foot off the accelerator and applying the brakes then."

        Worth breaking if you could change the outcome at all, but if you are already dead, what is the point?

          Fortunately, with regards to climate change, we're still at the point where we're not all going to die. We still have a choice about how hard we hit the tree, and whether the probabilities favour a sprained wrist or a broken neck.

    Almost everyone, including sceptics, agree the world is warming. The warministas like to pretend this is not true.

    This graph is meaningless. It makes no link between climate change and anthropomorphic carbon dioxide emissions.

      There's a graph in the documentary Chasing Ice which maps CO2 concentration and temperature over 800,000 years based on ice core samples. The CO2 emissions go off the chart in the last few years (we've reached 400ppm after the "normal" levels in the past hanging between 160 and 300 ppm).

      Here's the CO2-only graph:

      If my household electricity usage puts 5 - 6 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere per year, imagine that scaled up to a world population scale (although as an Australian our per capita CO2 output is well above average) and include industry CO2 and automotive CO2 and anthropomorphic CO2 emissions look pretty significant.

      Don't bury your head in the sand.

        it takes 20 cubic kilometers of air with 0.04% CO2 to grow one acre of trees, that's a lot of depleted air that must cycle across many years to provide the trees with adequate CO2.

        Sure, the plants brought it on themselves by plundering the CO2 and wasting it, removing it from the carbon cycle and storing it underground as coal.. which is why the even more voracious C4 photosynthesizing plants evolved. Much greedier than C3, who die off at levels slightly below 0.02%, those nasty bggrs can run CO2 levels down to zero.

        So what do we do when those greedy C4 plants drop CO2 levels to sub 180 - that takes out 95% of all plant life on earth, then there's just them - running it down to zero. I guess there's nothing to do right? It's natural after all..

        No doubt there's a lot of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. You have also failed to make the link to climate change though.

      Here's a nice animation of the graph:

      Doesn't map climate, but check out Chasing Ice for that one.

    Why do we look at the 1850s when man made activities only started to possibly contribute to CO2 levels since the 1960s?

    Clearly there is some natural variability and the theory of catastrophic man made climate change is not holding up to the historical data.

      What gives you the idea that human activity couldn't have influenced the climate before the sixties? Visualisations like this often start some time in the 19th Century because the industrial revolution is where carbon emissions really started to climb.

      Don't confuse one visualisation with the sum total of climate research, either. Various lines of evidence about the relationship between greenhouse gases and climate go back millions of years.

      Are you aware of the concept of 'control' data when doing statistical analysis?

      Control data establishes a baseline of natural variability. Only going back to the 1850's probably isn't enough for planetary climate 'control' data. But the graph still demonstrates the point well.

    Here we go, climate and CO2 concentration from ice core samples:

    Believe in it, don't believe in it. It's just there. So we need to change energy sources.

    Last edited 15/05/16 3:23 pm

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