Climate Change Summed Up in a Single, Startling Animation

May 19th, 2016 - by admin

Richard Gray / Daily Mail Online – 2016-05-19 01:19:42

Climate Change Summed Up in a Single Animation:
How the world has become significantly warmer since 1850

Richard Gray / Daily Mail Online

LONDON (May 12, 2016) — It is a controversial topic fraught with bickering, politics and scepticism. But a new animation has provided a startling visualisation of how climate change is warming the planet.

Although the illustration looks more like something drawn using a spirograph, it shows how global temperatures have changed month-by-month between 1850 and 2016.

In the graphic, until around the 1930s the global temperature change is shown remaining relatively small but starts growing slowly after that.

When the GIF reaches the late 1990s, however, the temperature change increases considerably.

Dr Ed Hawkins, a climate scientist at the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading who created the visualisation, told MailOnline: ‘I wanted to try to visualise the global changes we have seen in different ways to learn about how we might improve our communication.

‘The pace of change is immediately obvious, especially over the past few decades, and the relationship between current global temperatures and the internationally discussed limits are also clear.’

Within the animation it is also possible to see how global events such as the El Nino phenomenon alter temperatures around the world.

For example, there is a small amount of cooling between the 1880s and 1910 due to volcanic eruptions before warming again between 1910 and the 1940s.

Dr Hawkins said this warming was due to a small increase in solar output and natural variability and recovery from the volcanic eruptions.

Temperatures also remain largely flat between the 1950s and the 1970s, he explained in his blog, because aerosols released into the atmosphere mask the impact of greenhouse gases.

But from 1980 there is strong warming with temperatures pushed particularly high in 1998 and 2016 due to strong El Nino events.

However, Dr Hawkins said: ‘Some have used the graphic to suggest that temperatures are “spiralling out of control”, but I disagree — human activities are largely responsible for past warming so we do have control over what happens next.’

His visualisation appears to have taken the scientific and climate community by storm. A tweet featuring his animation has been retweeted more than 9,000 times.

Hoesung Lee, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has even said it is an example of how the embattled UN organisation can transform how it communicates the latest data on global warming.

Speaking to Climate Home, he said: ‘It’s very important . . . we have been somewhat criticised in that our reports are not that easy. Therefore we’re going to do a substantial improvement in our reports.’

Others have said they hope simple representations of complex climate issues like this can help to convince policy makers about the need for action to combat global warming. Richard Black, Diorector of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said: ‘It’s a real breakthrough in communicating #climatechange. Seminal.’

Dr Hawkins told MailOnline he had been surprised by the reaction, but added: ‘I hope it helps communicate a complex issue in a simple way to a wide audience, and encourages them to find out more about the issues involved and possible solutions.’


The amount of man-made heat energy absorbed by the seas has doubled since 1997. Scientists have long known more than 90% of the heat energy from man-made global warming goes into the world’s oceans instead of the ground.

But in a recent study, researchers tracked how much man-made heat has been buried in the oceans in the past 150 years.

The world’s oceans absorbed approximately 150 zettajoules of energy from 1865 to 1997, and then absorbed about another 150 in the next 18 years, according to a study in the journal Nature Climate Change.

To put that in perspective, if you exploded one atomic bomb the size of the one that dropped on Hiroshima every second for a year, the total energy released would be two zettajoules.

So since 1997, Earth’s oceans have absorbed man-made heat energy equivalent to a Hiroshima-style bomb being exploded every second for 75 straight years.

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