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Communicating Climate Change

Annotated resources for teaching climate change from interdisciplinary perspectives. Contributions are welcomed by the sponsor, NSF EPSCoR, and initial contributors Dr. Y. Houy, UNLV Honors College, and Dr. P. Starkweather, UNLV School of Life Science.

Scientific Visualization

The “Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media” succinctly states the importance of informative and compelling visuals to communicate the scientific understanding and possible effects of climate change:

“Strategic use of visualizations and graphics, particularly when they are designed to be interactive, can be key to presenting large amounts of climate information in an easily digestible form. With outstanding graphics, audiences can engage directly with the information being presented, helping them make sense of large data sets and helping them see connections in complex phenomena” (Peach, 2011).

This section annotates compelling visualizations of scientific data related to climate change. The sections “Communicating Climate Science” and “Climate Science” in this libguide also contain a number of interactive websites with compelling visualizations of climate change science and risks, while the section “Climate Change Art” includes artistic depictions of climate change information. (Y. Houy)

Peach, S. (2011, Sept. 22). Interactive graphics illustrate benefits of visualization on climate change issues. TheYale Forum on Climate Change & the Media.

Climate Change Science & Outreach Graphics (website)

This website has highly informative graphics communicating the complex data related to climate change science and risks.


NASA Scientific Visualization Studio (website)

The NASA Scientific Visualization Studio works with scientists to create informative visualizations related to earth and space science. Their compelling interactive graphics and videos are frequently used for communicating climate science and risks in the media:

For example, the interactive graphic below helps visualize scientific data related to climate change, including changes in sea ice melts from the 1970s, predictions of sea level changes in different parts of the world, surprisingly drastic changes in global distribution and concentration of carbon dioxide from 2003, and changes in global surface temperatures from 1885 to 2007

This 26-second video based on a NASA visualization, shows anomalies of global surface temperatures during the rapid growth of industrialization from 1880 through 2010. The global map gradually changes from cool blue to yellow and then orange-red over these 130 years to show the global warming trend:

The NASA Scientific Visualization Studio continuously produces visualizations based on available scientific data and in response to current interests.  The 6 minute video below is a primer on how data was collected to determine that the last decade was the hottest on record:

The Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media (blog entries)

This blog entry lists and discusses different interactive graphics visualizing climate change:

This entry analyzes the emotional appeal strategies of videos about the effects of climate change:

Visualizing Climate Change (print)

Visualizing Climate Change: A guide to visual communication of climate change and developing local solutions by Stephen R. J. Sheppard, Professor in Landscape Architecture and Forest Resources Management at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, discusses effective, and sometimes innovative, ways of visualizing the global and local effects of climate change.

Sheppard, S. R. J. (2012). Visualizing Climate Change: A guide to visual communication of climate change and developing local solutions. New York, NY: Routledge.

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