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.

‘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.)

Mapping Irrecoverable Carbon

From Noon, Goldstein, Ledezma et al., “Mapping the irrecoverable carbon in Earth’s ecosystems,” Nat Sustain (2021). Creative Commons licence.

A new study published in Nature Sustainability maps the Earth’s reserves of what is called “irrecoverable carbon”—that is to say, those stores of carbon in nature that, if released into the atmosphere, would not be able to be restored in the timeframe required to deal with climate change. These stores include wetlands and old-growth forests, which take longer to replenish.

Irrecoverable carbon represents 20% of the total manageable ecosystem carbon. Globally, 79.0 Gt (57%) of irrecoverable carbon is found in biomass while 60.0 Gt (43%) is in soils. […] The largest and highest-density irrecoverable carbon reserves are in the tropical forests and peatlands of the Amazon (31.5 Gt), the Congo Basin (8.2 Gt) and Insular Southeast Asia (13.1 Gt); the temperate rainforest of northwestern North America (5.0 Gt); the boreal peatlands and associated forests of eastern Canada and western Siberia (12.4 Gt); and mangroves and tidal wetlands globally (4.8 Gt).

The study argues that such reserves should be considered unexploitable; about 48 percent of it is already within protected or indigenous lands. About half the irrecoverable carbon sits on 3.3 percent of the world’s land area. [ScienceNews, GIS Lounge]

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.

Climate from Space


The European Space Agency’s new Climate from Space website presents satellite data on a host of different climate indicators, from aerosols to CO2, from land cover to sea ice, via 3D virtual globes. From the announcement:

The new, easy-to-use site provides access to the same satellite observations used by scientists to understand climate change and support international organisations such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to drive action.

There is a suite of 21 climate data records to explore, which are generated by ESA’s Climate Change Initiative. The suite includes sea level, sea surface temperature, soil moisture, snow depth and the greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane, as well as new visualisations for the latest climate variables records such as permafrost and lakes.

Mapping Climate Change’s Impact on California’s Fire Seasons

ProPublica (screenshot)

ProPublica maps the change in California’s fire seasons. “As California continues battling its worst wildfire season on record, new research shows that fall fire weather days—days with high temperatures, low humidity and high wind speeds—will double in parts of the state by the end of the century and will increase 40% by 2065. […] In the north, a summer fire season has been driven by high temperatures and low humidity. In Southern California, fall fire season is driven by east winds. With climate change, though, both the summer and fall fire seasons have grown longer, and are melting into each other, overlapping in time and space.” [Joshua Stevens]

Mapping Climate Risk in the United States

The New York Times (screenshot)

Climate change isn’t just one thing: rising temperatures, or sea level rise. It’s also changes to rainfall, increased risk of wildfires, more powerful hurricanes. The extent to which any of these are threats depends on where you live: North Dakota doesn’t have much to worry about rising sea levels, but it should think about drought. That’s what this interactive map from the New York Times attempts to measure: the climate risks to the United States on a county-by-county basis.

Previously: How Climate Change Will Transform the United States.

How Climate Change Will Transform the United States

ProPublica map

ProPublica has released a series of climate maps showing the impact of warming temperatures, rising seas and changes in rainfall on the United States. “Taken with other recent research showing that the most habitable climate in North America will shift northward and the incidence of large fires will increase across the country, this suggests that the climate crisis will profoundly interrupt the way we live and farm in the United States. See how the North American places where humans have lived for thousands of years will shift and what changes are in store for your county.”

Mapping the California Heat Wave

NASA Earth Observatory: California Heatwave 2020
NASA Earth Observatory (Joshua Stevens)

NASA Earth Observatory: “The map above shows air temperatures across the United States on September 6, 2020, when much of the Southwest roasted in a dramatic heatwave. The map was derived from the Goddard Earth Observing System (GEOS) model and represents temperatures at 2 meters (about 6.5 feet) above the ground. The darkest red areas are where the model shows temperatures surpassing 113°F (45°C).” Heat waves in southern California have become “more frequent, intense, and longer-lasting,” the article goes on to say.

Monitoring the Arctic Heat Wave

Extreme temperatures in Eureka
ESA/Copernicus Sentinel (CC licence)

The European Space Agency has a post about monitoring the Arctic heat wave (mainly, it seems, through the Copernicus program). It’s illustrated by a few startling images from this summer: of Siberia’s wildfires, the record-low levels of Arctic sea ice, and (above) a map showing the land surface temperatures on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut on 11 August, when Eureka, Nunavut—80° N—had a record high of 21.9°C (71.4°F).

The Washington Post Maps Wildlife Corridors in Wyoming

Washington Post
Washington Post

Last month the Washington Post published a feature on the impact of Interstate 80 on wildlife migrations in Wyoming, and how climate change would affect animals’ ability to move to new habitat as their usual stomping grounds are made unsuitable by global warming. The print version (above) and online version have related maps—one static, one dynamic—that illustrate wildlife paths and how they are stymied by the highway, as well as places where overpasses and tunnels might help. [Lauren Tierney]