How do you visualize the colossal amount of data surrounding climate change? Al Gore squeezed a lot of info into 100 minutes and a PowerPoint presentation, but the next step needs to be dynamic, interactive and malleable. That’s where Google Earth has been doing a lot of good and today Google Earth Outreach, the Met Office Hadley Centre and British Antarctic Survey have launched climate change-related mapping info using the research groups’ catalog of scientific data.
Google Earth Outreach allows organizations to map and chart a variety of information and data into layers on top of Google Earth, making it publicly available and easily visualized. Groups like Greenpeace can map deforestation while reseachers at the Jane Goodall Institute can track chimpanzee movement. We profiled some of our favorite user-created ones here, including Scottish wind farms and crude oil refineries.
The layer from the Met Office Hadley Centre, called Climate Change In Our World, provides an animated globe of the Center’s model of CO2 concentrations spanning from November 1999 forward to October 2099. Along the time line, different annotated place markers pop up to provide insight into the impact of global climate change on specific locations. Each place marker links you to a complete published scientific paper on topics ranging from Amazonian dieback to Siberian river flow changes.
The British Antarctic Survey has also created a Google Earth layer called Climate Change in Our World, Antarctica, which document the retreating and crumbling Antarctic ice shelves from May 1940 through to a projected June 2099. The layer is covered with dates of specific discoveries and documents the retreats of 10 different ice shelves.
Google Earth is a great lens through which to view climate change data and models. Opening this data up to the public in such a navigable form could help boost awareness and give people a better grasp of the scope of climate change. The layers could definitely use more nuanced and regionally specific data, but this is a good start for the armchair climatologist.
To view the layers, you’ll first have to download Google Earth. Then, you need to download and open the two separate KML layers: Climate Change in Our World and Climate Change in Our World, Antarctica.