Google Earth, which in 2009 unveiled tools to visualize the effects of climate change, has now gone one better. The 3-D mapping program has now added data that will allow you to explore how much global warming has changed temperatures in your neighborhood or almost any other part of the world.
The new data layer (which you must add after downloading the Google Earth program) comes from the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit (UEA CRU), which has provided information from 6,000 weather stations around the world. That's not all. Once you look at a particular location, the data also includes graphs with temperature records going back decades, and in some cases all the way to 1850. Information is presented in boxes corresponding to every five degrees of latitude and longitude.
Dr. Tim Osborn from UEA CRU told The Guardian that "the beauty of using Google Earth is that you can instantly see where the weather stations are, zoom in on specific countries, and see station datasets much more clearly. The data itself comes from the latest CRUTEM4 figures, which have been freely available on our website and via the Met Office. But we wanted to make this key temperature dataset as interactive and user-friendly as possible."
Dana Nuccitelli, one of The Guardian's "Climate Consensus" bloggers, tried the new system out, using the current Wintery Olympic Games as a starting point. According to the data, temperatures in Sochi, Russia, were flat from 1900 to 1990 but have risen nearly 1°C since then.
Slate's "Bad Astronomy" blogger Phil Plait also tried out the data by testing it for his home town of Boulder, Colo., where he found a 1°C rise over the past 15 years. He also tried the Arctic, finding that "nearly everywhere I clicked in the Arctic the temperature jump in the past 10 years or so is larger and more obvious." (Plait also anticipates several complaints likely to emerge from global-warming deniers.)
Osborn acknowledges that the data has a few gaps where information hasn't been collected as thoroughly or for as long (the Sahara, for instance), and that the exactly locations of the weather stations may be off by a few kilometers if they didn't have the exact latitude and longitude coordinates, but he told The Guardian that he hopes people will let them know if any individual records seem "unusual."
In addition to the temperature information itself, Osborne and his colleagues have published a paper about the data in the journal Earth System Science Data.
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