Climate Change: xkcd nails it with one graph


Last Month I reported that July 2016 was the Hottest July ever in human history. Now that we have the raw data for August, we can take a peek and see if it is following the ongoing trend.

So is it?

Yes, it very much is.

OK, so I was being a tad dramatic last month when I used the qualifier “ever in human history”. The precise definition is that it is the warmest since we started recording precise numbers each and every month in 1880.

Here is a visualisation of the raw data. It comes from the NASA Earth Observatory site …

tempanoms_gis_august2016

Well yes, but this has happened before … right?

xkcd creator Randall Munroe has created a graphic picture that illustrates the past 22,000 years to show you that what has just happened is completely unprecedented.

There have been some -ve comments about combining paleoclimate data with the present temperature record. The criticism is perhaps appropriate because he combines data extrapolated from models with actual measurements, so in a scientific sense, most would choke upon this if it had been presented within a scientific paper. Oh but wait, it is not a scientific paper, and is instead simply a cartoon designed to drive home a rather important point.

One of those criticising the graph, Chris Colose, does indeed agree that what is now happing is unique.

OK, so not a scientific model, and instead just an illustration of what we are now doing, and so in that context it is indeed a really great way to communicate that. Here is the xkcd graph, and also below. You will need to scroll quite a bit …

earth_temperature_timeline
Should we be worried?

Well let me put all this another way …

Doing nothing is not an option.

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