Global Temperature Anomalies

Recent figures released by the NASA as well as the British Met Office and NOAA confirm that 2015 was the hottest year ever recorded. In addition, the period of the past five years was also the warmest in recent times. The following map animation visualises a data series by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) that depicts “how much various regions of the world have warmed or cooled when compared with a base period of 1951-1980. They show temperature anomalies, or changes, not absolute temperature. (The global mean surface air temperature for that period was estimated to be 14°C or 57°F.)” It uses an equal population project in form of a gridded cartogram so that the underlying temperature anomalies can seen in relation to the global population distribution:

Animation of Global Temperature Anomalies from 2010 to 2015 on a gridded population cartogram
(click for larger version)

Single snapshots of our global climate do of course not provide evidence for climate change. However, the steady and constant increase in warmer years that have been observed are seen as a strong indication that climate patterns are changing. On the other hand, in the public perception climate change often only becomes apparent if unusual weather patterns are observed, such as the recent very mild first half of the winter in Central Europe.
The gridded population cartograms used in this animation therefore change the perspective of such weather patterns towards a population-centric view. In these maps the global temperature anomalies of the past six years can be seen related to how the human population was affected by the climate trends. Here are the individual maps from the above animation:

Global Temperature Anomaly 2015
Global Temperature Anomaly 2015 on a gridded population cartogram
(click for larger version)

Global Temperature Anomaly 2014
Global Temperature Anomaly 2014 on a gridded population cartogram
(click for larger version)

Global Temperature Anomaly 2013
Global Temperature Anomaly 2013 on a gridded population cartogram
(click for larger version)

Global Temperature Anomaly 2012
Global Temperature Anomaly 2012 on a gridded population cartogram
(click for larger version)

Global Temperature Anomaly 2011
Global Temperature Anomaly 2011 on a gridded population cartogram
(click for larger version)

Global Temperature Anomaly 2010
Global Temperature Anomaly 2010 on a gridded population cartogram
(click for larger version)

What can be seen in these cartograms is a period in which Earth has seen a constant increase in global surface temperatures. As stated on the Earth Observations website:
According to an ongoing temperature analysis conducted by GISS, the average global temperature on Earth has increased by about 0.8°Celsius (1.4°Fahrenheit) since 1880. Two-thirds of the warming has occurred since 1975, at a rate of roughly 0.15-0.20°C per decade.
A 0.8 degree global change is significant because it takes a vast amount of heat to warm all of the oceans, atmosphere, and land on the planet by that much. In the past, a one- to two-degree global drop was all it took to plunge the Earth into the “Little Ice Age.” A five-degree drop was enough to bury a large part of North America under a towering mass of ice 20,000 years ago.

The content on this page has been created by Benjamin Hennig using data by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). Please contact me for further details on the terms of use.

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