The World is Warming: What Can Data Do to Help?

This past summer, weather and climate-caused events have dominated the news and impacted the day to day lives of many. Each year, across the globe, heatwaves are getting hotter, while cold days are fewer. This summer, the United States alone surpassed nine all-time temperature records, with an additional ten records tied so far.

These phenomenons are not isolated to the United States either. In Switzerland, record high temperatures raised water body temperatures, killing off over one ton of fish. In Japan, the city of Kumagaya saw the highest-ever recorded temperature in the country. Not to mention in Greenland, where unprecedented high temperatures put a slab of ice large enough to trigger a destructive tsunami at high risk of breaking off. These examples are only the tip of both a literal and figurative iceberg. Research, data, and our own personal experiences have been making one truth increasingly evident: climate change is no joke.

Source: World Meteorological Organization

Armed with Information

Fortunately, here at Planet OS we have an expansive series of weather, climate and environmental datasets available on Datahub. With these, we can observe, study, and apply data towards preparing and building solutions for an increasingly mercurial climate.

This week, Planet OS Data integration & QA Engineer, Andres Luhamaa applies Datahub to visualize how temperatures compare from May 1980 to May 2018 across the globe.

In the map above, Andres plots the difference in the daily mean temperature difference during the month of May 1980 and May 2018. For every red to dark red point the average daily temperature has increased 2.5 °C to 10 °C, while for every blue point, the average daily temperature has decreased -2.5 °C to -10 °C. This data incorporates information from two different sources available on Planet OS. Through a combination of historical data from the MERRA2 reanalysis and station data from RBSN, we can compare temperatures as they occur in real time with temperatures from the past.

Monthly Mean Temperatures for May-August 1980 Compared to May-August 2018

One of the most notable trends we can observe from these maps is that the regions most impacted by the heatwaves recently (United States and Western Europe) have seen some of the greatest increases in average daily temperature over the past four decades. Scandinavia has been especially hot, hitting all time records across the region and maintaining an average temperature of about 10 °C higher than average for the months of June-August. Additionally, areas with higher population densities and urbanized environments also show marked increases in mean temperature.

Next Steps

While the frequency, intensity, and duration of heat waves can have detrimental impacts to communities, their economies, and the environment, data can inform our decisions in building efficient, effective solutions and defense. The damage to human lives, infrastructure, and ecosystems can be reduced with the dissemination of forecasts and warning signs of destructive weather events and changes in climate. With these datasets available on Datahub, we can use this invaluable tool to inform the public, industries, and policy makers on meaningful changes in weather and climate.

The applications for climate data are limitless. Not only can data allow us to identify problematic infrastructure and dangerous climate phenomenons, but it can even inform selections for renewable energy technology, for example, so we can use the next heat wave to potentially power a new generation of green energy.


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