Sustainable Energy

Rich NASA Data Set Reveals a Warming World

A helpful visualization of historical temperatures shows dramatic variation in the local effects of global warming.

Jan 16, 2013

(New Scientist)

NASA yesterday updated its yearly analysis of global surface temperatures, adding measurements from 2012 and reaffirming that the planet is in the midst of a prolonged warming trend. But as Peter Aldhous at New Scientist points out, the rising average temperature for the entire planet is only so illustrative of what’s happening. Much more of the story is contained in local temperature changes, which in some cases are much more dramatic than the global average.

Aldhous and colleagues used data from the NASA analysis reflecting the entire historical temperature record since 1880 to create an informative and smartly interactive map of the world. The visualization uses colors to compare the average surface temperatures for various time frames over the past 120 years to the average temperature during the period from 1951 to 1980, the span the NASA analysis refers to as a baseline. The data combines numbers from thousands of land-based measuring stations with readings from ships and satellites. 

Click on a location to view charts showing the warming trend line for that locale compared to the global trend line. Use the dropdown menu at the top to toggle between 20-year time frames going all the way back to 1893.