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Show your stripes: Graphics show Florida, the world is dramatically heating up

Simple graphics are visual representation of changing climates

Courtesy of Professor Ed Hawkins (University of Reading)
Courtesy of Professor Ed Hawkins (University of Reading) (Copyright 2020 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

ORLANDO, Fla. – If you’ve been perusing social media, you may have noticed colorful blue and red graphics popping up. Turns out, they’re displaying how global temperatures are changing.

The trend is part of the #ShowYourStripes initiative, organized by MetsUnite. The idea is that meteorologists and scientists post the stripes corresponding to their area to bring awareness to changing climates.

These graphics come from showyourstripes.info, created by Professor Ed Hawkins from the University of Reading. He, along with help from other scientists, gathered the average temperatures over the course of 100 years from countries and regions across the globe.

For most countries, the data comes from the Berkely Earth temperature dataset which has been updated to the end of 2019, according to the website. Scientists used data from relevant national meteorological agencies for some countries like the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Germany, France and Sweden. As for the United States, a majority of the data stems from National Weather Service records.

Courtesy of Professor Ed Hawkins (University of Reading)
Courtesy of Professor Ed Hawkins (University of Reading) (Copyright 2020 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

After analyzing and organizing the data, the ‘warming stripe’ graphics are meant to be a visual representation of the change in temperature as measured in each country over a time period. Each stripe represents the temperature that the area averaged over the course of a year.

When asked if this change in temperature is expected, News 6 Chief Meteorologist Tom Sorrels explained that the red lines should be considered a warning sign.

“This is far from typical and should be considered alarming. We’ve warmed before but never this rapidly,” he said.

Apart from taking a glance at global temperatures, the site allows you to see graphics for individual countries, regions and even states. The common theme is that most graphics seem to end in red stripes, indicating a warmer than average temperature. The darker the red, the hotter the temperature than what the area typically experiences.

Courtesy of Professor Ed Hawkins (University of Reading)
Courtesy of Professor Ed Hawkins (University of Reading) (Copyright 2020 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

As for why the graphics don’t show any numbers, the creator says it’s for simplicity’s sake.

“There are numerous sources of information which provide more specific details about how temperatures have changed, so these graphics fill a gap and enable communication with minimal scientific knowledge required to understand their meaning,” the website reads.

Courtesy of Professor Ed Hawkins (University of Reading)
Courtesy of Professor Ed Hawkins (University of Reading) (Copyright 2020 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

When it comes to Florida’s temperatures, the graphic shows pink and lighter red stripes turn nearly maroon as it edges closer to 2019 on the timeline. The graphic marks temperatures since 1895, showing a mostly blue beginning for the Sunshine State, as average temperatures appeared to be colder than usual.

“In recorded history, it normally takes millennia to get this warm,” Sorrels said about Florida’s warming temperatures. “It takes thousands of years to do this, not a handful. We’ve managed to do this in decades.”

Courtesy of Professor Ed Hawkins (University of Reading)
Courtesy of Professor Ed Hawkins (University of Reading) (Copyright 2020 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

News 6 Meteorologist Samara Cokinos provided a further explanation of how Florida’s stripes paint a warm picture.

“Scientists use glacial ice cores to see what elements were in the atmosphere during certain time periods. Basically, those gases are trapped in the ice and create different color rings based on what element was most abundant at that time,” she explained. “More carbon dioxide from burning oil, coal, and gas has been shown to lead to dramatic warming. The most warming has occurred in the past 35 years, so basically since the 80s.”

When asked if Florida would continue on this trend, she said it’s likely, considering carbon dioxide emissions.

“Yes, heating will continue, but with companies reducing carbon footprints and electric cars etc, it slows down that process a little but doesn’t stop it completely,” she explained. “The carbon dioxide that’s built up is from years and years and years of emissions, not just what’s happened this past week. It’s hard to stop a train like that given centuries worth of emissions momentum.”


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