A Big Picture View: Visualizing Climate Change
  • 26th June, 2018
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A Big Picture View: Visualizing Climate Change

By Martine Hamman

Lately I've been interested in what climate change means for us. In Cape Town, the spirited nature of our local weather has had quite an impact on our population. We've experienced an extreme drought cycle and are currently subject to erratic winter weather which is proving to be much more unpredictable than usual.

As a result, I've been researching climate change topics and quickly realised that scientists, analysts and institutions routinely collect, transfer, archive, collate and present vast amounts of climate data. For example, the upcoming NISAR satellite mission due to launch in 2021 (a joint NASA/ Indian Space research project), aims to add 85 TB data per day to the NASA archives. Read more about this interesting data project here: https://earthdata.nasa.gov/getting-ready-for-nisar.

The schematic above is taken from the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPPC) Report 2013 for Policy Makers, showing (a) annual mean surface temperature change and (b) average percent change in annual mean precipitation.

Interactive data are always much more engaging than static charts however. This is particularly true when it comes to climate data. 

Here are a few interesting sites to visit if you're interested in seeing beautiful climate data visualisations:

  • NASA's Earth Science Data project (https://earthdata.nasa.gov/) shares atmospheric, human, land, oceanic and radiance data sets. They encourage collaboration via GitHub https://github.com/nasa/earthdata-search, and have several API’s available via https://earthdata.nasa.gov/api
  • NASA also provides an awesome interactive visualization platform named Worldview (https://worldview.earthdata.nasa.gov/). This site allows browsing of full-resolution, global satellite imagery where you can explore two decades of earth data in detail, even track iceberg movements and present-day events like wildfires and tropical storms.
  •  Check out the Earth Overshoot Day movement at https://www.overshootday.org/ , which states we are consuming 1.7 Earths per year. Daunting. They also share beautiful infographics on our carbon footprint and exploring solutions around cities, food, population and energy production.
  • Also explore http://data.footprintnetwork.org/#/exploreData for great visualizations on sustainable development, the ecological wealth of countries and an interactive map on biocapacity per country.
  • My personal favorite is the interactive weather map at https://earth.nullschool.net/. You will be mesmerized by the beautiful overlay options available. Created by Cameron Beccario, the weather map shows wind speed and direction, ocean surface currents and temperatures. It renders data from NOAA’s global forecast system with data updates every 3 hours. 
  • These are just a few highlights but there are so many more global weather tools out there. Visit https://gisgeography.com/global-weather-maps/ if you’re keen for more. 

    Thanks for touring with me. I hope you find these climate change data sets as interesting as I did!

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About Author

Martine is a business effectiveness junkie constantly searching for new ways to improve the operational environment. She has in-depth experience in business systems migration projects, providing business analysis and project support to development teams servicing the African ISP market. Martine is an independent project coordinator at iXio Analytics where she coaches the team in agile management practices and supports data analysis projects. She enjoys living in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town with her family and two cats, named Speedy and Batman.

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