The Mediterranean’s Summer Heat Wave

Europe’s summer heat wave wasn’t just felt on land; the Mediterranean Sea saw surface temperatures as much as 5°C above the average. The ESA’s animated map, above, shows the difference between sea surface temperatures from March to August 2022 and the 1985-2005 average for those months. The redder, the hotter than average. [ESA]

Climate Change Could Affect Maritime Boundaries

Sea level rise and coral reef destruction could have an impact on international boundaries, according to a study by University of Sydney researchers published in Environmental Research Letters. Coral reefs form the basis for a number of claims on maritime zones, which could suddenly be in doubt if reef destruction or changes to a reef’s low-water line erase that basis. Press release.

Mapping Drought in Europe

European Drought Observatory (screenshot)

The European Drought Observatory maps drought the way meteorologists map extreme weather: it maps watches, warnings and alerts based on a lack of rainfall, a lack of soil moisture, and stress to vegetation following a lack of moisture, respectively. In addition to the online map viewer, there is a comparison tool and a way to generate your own maps from the data, among other tools. As of early August, the Observatory says, 47 percent of EU territory is facing warning conditions, 17 percent in alert conditions. It’s been a bad summer. [Maps Mania]

The Climate Shift Index

Climate Shift Index map for low temperatures on 14 June 2022

Bloomberg has the story on the Climate Shift Index, which maps the impact of climate change on daily temperatures in the U.S. It doesn’t quite work the way you’d expect at first glance: the index, ranging from -5 to +5, measures the calculated impact of climate change on the current temperatures. This video explains how it works, as does the FAQ.

Mapping Where the Earth Will Become Uninhabitable

Screenshot of an interactive globe showing where climate change will make the Earth uninhabitable, from the Berliner Morgenpost.
Berliner Morgenpost (screenshot)

An interactive globe from the Berliner Morgenpost shows where the Earth is predicted to become uninhabitable by 2100, based on climate models that assume global warming of 2.5-3°C by that date. The globe starts with a vertical map of population, then uses heat maps to indicate where the impacts of heat, drought, sea level rise and increased tropical cyclones will be felt. The key point of this visualization is the impact on population: how many, not just where. In German and English. [Maps Mania]

Indigenous Content Added to Climate Atlas of Canada

CBC News reports on the launch of an Indigenous Knowledges component to the Climate Atlas of Canada:

Until now, the interactive atlas did not show climate change projections for Indigenous communities. Only Canadian urban centres were included.

The newly-launched feature provides information about the impacts of climate change on 634 First Nations communities and 53 Inuit communities, while also profiling projects surrounding climate change adaptation and mitigation across the Métis homeland.

The Climate Atlas has a video demo of its Indigenous content. The Atlas’s online map, with Indigenous layers, is here.

Saharan Dust in Western Europe

Map showing dust plumes from Africa spreading across Europe
NASA Earth Observatory/Joshua Stevens

A dust plume from the Sahara, driven by an atmospheric river, blew across western Europe this week, and friends from Spain to Germany experienced it. NASA Earth Observatory has satellite imagery of the plume, plus maps (above) showing “a model of the dust plumes blowing across North Africa and into Europe on March 14 and 15. The model was generated by the Goddard Earth Observing System Model, Version 5 (GEOS-5), a global atmospheric model that uses mathematical equations to represent physical processes. Measurements of physical properties like temperature, moisture, and wind speeds and directions are routinely folded into the model to keep the simulation as close to observed reality as possible.”

‘The People Who Draw Rocks’

Melting glaciers are keeping a special team of cartographers at Swisstopo, Switzerland’s national mapping agency, busy: they’re the ones charged with making changes to the Swiss alps on Swisstopo’s maps. The New York Times reports:

“The glaciers are melting, and I have more work to do,” as Adrian Dähler, part of that special group, put it.

Dähler is one of only three cartographers at the agency—the Federal Office of Topography, or Swisstopo—allowed to tinker with the Swiss Alps, the centerpiece of the country’s map. Known around the office as “felsiers,” a Swiss-German nickname that loosely translates as “the people who draw rocks,” Dähler, along with Jürg Gilgen and Markus Heger, are experts in shaded relief, a technique for illustrating a mountain (and any of its glaciers) so that it appears three-dimensional. Their skills and creativity also help them capture consequences of the thawing permafrost, like landslides, shifting crevasses and new lakes.

The article is a fascinating look at an extraordinarily exacting aspect of cartography. [WMS]

Mapping Methane Emissions

World map of methane emissions from fossil fuel exploitation
Methane emissions from oil, gas, and coal exploitation in the Global Fuel Exploitation Inventory (GFEI) version 1 in 2016 (Mg/y/km2)

NASA Earth Observatory:

Funded by NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System, scientists recently built a new series of maps detailing the geography of methane emissions from fossil fuel production. Using publicly available data reported in 2016, the research team plotted fuel exploitation emissions—or “fugitive emissions” as the UNFCCC calls them—that arise before the fuels are ever consumed. The maps delineate where these emissions occur based on the locations of coal mines, oil and gas wells, pipelines, refineries, and fuel storage and transportation infrastructure. The maps were recently published at NASA’s Goddard Earth Sciences Data and Information Services Center (GES DISC). (Note that 2016 was the most recent year with complete UN emissions data available at the time of this study.)

Google Rerouted Traffic Up Poorly Maintained Mountain Roads During a Blizzard

Screenshot of Google Maps showing driving directions in California
Screenshot (Crystal A. Kolden/@pyrogeog on Twitter)

Last week, when a snowstorm closed Interstate 80 east of Sacramento, Google Maps started redirecting traffic up poorly maintained mountain roads, which is about as good an idea during a blizzard as it sounds.

As SFGate reports,

Other dispatches from Twitter allege that the service—particularly its mobile app—directed people to closed-off highways, mountain passes and lakeside roads to get around. This is in direct contrast to Caltrans’ messaging to avoid workarounds. Caltrans District 3 spokesperson Steve Nelson told SFGATE on Monday that they were seeing drivers trying to skirt highway closures with side streets. “They’ll take side roads and try and sneak past the closures, and that never ends well,” he said.

Google engineer Sören Meyer-Eppler responded on Twitter to spell out some of the technical and logistical problems involved in rerouting traffic during bad weather: the difficulty in finding timely data (and in such cases data need to be really timely) and the risk of false positives. More at Jalopnik.

First Images from Landsat 9 Released

Landsat 9 image of the Kimberly region of Western Australia
The first image from Landsat 9, taken on 31 October 2021, is of the Kimberly region of Western Australia. (NASA/USGS)

The latest of the Landsat satellites, Landsat 9, launched on September 27. Similar to Landsat 8 with slight equipment upgrades, it will replace Landsat 7 when it is fully operational next year. Right now it’s going through its 100-day check-out, after which NASA will hand it over to the USGS. As part of that check-out, its first images were recently released. [NASA Earth Observatory]

Patterson’s Malaspina Glacier Panorama

Tom Patterson

Tom Patterson’s latest is a panorama of Alaska’s Malaspina Glacier, with the St. Elias Mountains in the background. “I rendered this panorama to showcase a wild landscape in its entirety where human development is minimal. The sprawling Malaspina Glacier with its concentric rings of ice, rubble, and meltwater is front and center. I started this project in 2017 and then put it aside for four years. However, accelerating climate change brought newfound urgency to my mapping. I wanted to map this beautiful glacier while it still exists.”

Previously: Tom Patterson’s Map of Prince William Sound.

Mapping NOAA’s New Climate Normals

This month NOAA updated the official U.S climate normals. You know how in a weather forecast a meteorologist talks about normal temperatures or normal amounts of rain? The climate normals define what normal is: they take into account weather over the past 30 years, and are updated every 10 years. As you might expect, the normals do reveal the extent of climate change.


NOAA compares the new 1991-2020 normals period with the one that came before (1981-2010): “Most of the U.S. was warmer, and the eastern two-thirds of the contiguous U.S. was wetter, from 1991–2020 than the previous normals period, 1981–2010. The Southwest was considerably drier on an annual basis, while the central northern U.S. has cooled somewhat.” (Bear in mind that there’s a 20-year overlap between the two normals.)

The New York Times (screenshot)

The New York Times has created a series of animated maps showing how 30-year normals compare with 20th-century averages for temperature and precipitation. “The maps showing the new temperature normals every 10 years, compared with the 20th century average, get increasingly redder.”

The data is available from NOAA’s website.