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 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 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.
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]
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.
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.”
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.
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]
Prince William Sound turned out being the most laborious map that I have ever made. The culprit: climate change. Although much of the data that went into making the map was of recent vintage, glaciers in the region have melted noticeably these last few years.
Updating physical features—glaciers, coastlines, rivers, and lakes—from recent satellite images took up ninety percent of my time. Nevertheless, the completed map is only a snapshot in time. Columbia Glacier, for example, lost another one kilometer of its length during the summer of 2019. Much of what the map depicts will be out-of-date again before too long.
It can be downloaded, printed (it’s 44 × 36 inches) and modified free of charge.
Researchers have released an interactive map showing Canadians’ opinions about climate change—whether it’s happening, and what we should do about it—and, more significantly, the regional variations in that opinion, down to the riding level. Not surprisingly, the oil- and coal-producing regions are much more likely to be climate skeptics.
The map is based on surveys of more than 9,000 Canadians taken between 2011 and 2018, which raised my eyebrows a bit: public opinion can change a lot over seven or eight years, after all. But the researchers did so to get a more accurate sense of regional opinion: opinion polls are usually based on a small national sample; regional breakdowns of that sample have large margins of error, and getting accurate regional samples would be a lot more expensive. More at Global News.
Two degrees Celsius. That’s the redline. The average global temperature increase we need to keep below, according to the 2015 Paris Agreement. But as the Washington Post points out in two heavily mapped stories—one for the United States, one for the entire world—that show the change in average temperatures since the late 1800s, there are places on the planet that have already blown past that two-degree limit. [Maps Mania]
Satellite imagery only goes back so far. To measure the rate of ice loss across the Himalayan glaciers, researchers turned to recently declassified spy satellite photos from 1975. The photos were used to create a digital elevation model (above) which was compared with more recent data. They concluded that the rate of ice loss was accelerating: it was twice as much from 2000 to 2016 than it was from 1975 to 2000. Columbia University, Science News. [Geography Realm]
From last April: Worldmapper’s cartograms showing where in the world CO2 emissions are coming from, both in terms of overall emissions (by area) and per capita (colour). China, the U.S. and India are the largest emitters, but on a per capita basis the U.S. emits twice as much CO2 as China and eight times as much as India. Additional cartograms looking at the increase or decline in CO2 emissions (from 1990 to 2015) show increases mainly in China and the rest of Asia, and declines in Europe and the former Soviet bloc (a lot of the latter due to post-Soviet deindustrialization).
Climate change means retreating glaciers, which exposes new islands, which means new maps. BBC News reports that five new islands off the northeast coast of Novaya Zemlya, an archipelago in the Russian Arctic that was the site of hundreds of nuclear tests, were mapped by a Russian expedition. The islands were discovered in satellite photos by then-student Marina Migunova, now a naval oceanographic engineer.