According to new data published by NASA, July 2016 was the hottest month our planet has seen since we started recording temperatures 136 years ago. In fact, every month since October 2015 has set a new record compared to previous years. But since July is generally the warmest month of the year globally, the latest data signals a record among records. So, what does this data look like? If you ask me, it’s the most alarming rainbow I’ve ever seen.
Each year since 1880 is represented by a line on the graph, with the points marking the average temperature for each month. The numbers on the vertical axis represent the deviation in degrees Celsius compared to data collected from 1980 to 2015. The rainbow scale denotes time, with the earliest years represented in blue, and the most recent in red. It’s easy to pick out the record-setting months since last October, as they stand well apart from the tangle of lines below.
As scary climate-related data visualizations go, this one is in good company. A few months ago, climate scientist Ed Hawkins published a now-famous animated graphic of “spiraling global temperatures.” (After being shared widely online, it was apparently featured during the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Rio!) A recent update incorporates data up to May 2016.
Scientific American also just published a new and enlightening visualization of climate change. However, as a digital supplement to the September special issue on the future of humanity, this graphic focuses not on the past and present, but rather on what may be to come.
This interactive graphic uses data from NASA Earth Exchange to visualize temperature and precipitation projections from now to 2100. To watch the projected deviations swell over the decades and understand the devastation likely to accompany them in many areas is—well, chilling is probably the wrong word. But if we’re alarmed at how warm the past few months have felt, we certainly ought to brace ourselves for the future.