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


Ria Misra

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 visualization sets the record 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 mesmerizing 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 visualize 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.”