With researchers trying different means to create awareness about climate change, one scientist has found an ingenious way to communicate the seriousness of the issue using a startling animation which has gone viral since it first made an appearance on social media on Tuesday.
Ed Hawkins, professor at the University of Reading in the UK, has created a GIF using data from the UK Met Office’s Hadley Centre and the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Center which documents the world’s average temperature anomaly monthly and annually going back to the year 1850.
“I can’t quite believe it,” said Hawkins, who claimed that his university’s servers were “struggling a bit” Tuesday morning as large numbers of people were apparently watching the animation. As of now, the GIF has been retweeted over 12,000 times already.
The climate scientist also published research suggesting that the world could cross the 2 degree threshold by the year 2060, if emission levels stay high. This means that the 1.5 degree threshold is even closer.
He gives two reasons for this increase in global warming at the end of the animation. The first is that from the 1950s through the 1970s, scientists believe that sulfate aerosols from air pollution helped counter the warming effects of carbon dioxide and kept the planet, temporarily, cooler than it might have been otherwise. But when that pollution was cleared away, around the 1970s, a sharper warming trend began.
Using monthly temperature data, Hawkins plotted them in the form of a spiral, so that for each year, there are twelve points, one for each month, around the center of a circle – with warmer temperatures farther outward and colder temperatures nearer inward. Further, he took the pre-industrial baseline temperature to be the average temperature from 1850 to 1900, and put out markers for where a 1.5 degree Celsius rise above that temperature would be, and where at 2 degree Celsius rise would be, in the form of larger, red concentric circles.