These maps depict the invisible impacts of climate change

Right here’s one truth about climate change: Between 2002 and 2020, Greenland has misplaced a median of 279 billion tons of ice per 12 months. Right here’s one other: In 2021 alone, virtually 49,000 wildfires throughout the U.S. burned greater than 6.5 million acres. And one other: The final seven years have been the warmest on report.

[Image: James Cheshire/Oliver Uberti/courtesy W. W. Norton & Company]

With regards to climate change, numbers abound, however they are often exhausting to understand and their affect is commonly tough to visualise. A brand new e book desires to change that.

Out in the present day, Atlas of the Invisible turns big information units into highly effective graphics that reveal invisible patterns in all the things from gentrification to unlawful fishing and retreating glaciers. Created by geographer–designer workforce James Cheshire and Oliver Uberti, the e book shines a highlight on the far-reaching implications of climate change and the devastating affect it has on hurricanes, climate refugees, and even Hajj. With extraordinary maps and beautiful information visualizations, the e book makes world warming ever extra seen, and ever extra pressing.

We’ve highlighted 5 sections of the e book that visualize the affect of climate change in eye-catching, usually stunning methods.


[Image: James Cheshire/Oliver Uberti/courtesy W. W. Norton & Company]

Melting glaciers

“For hundreds of years, atlases depicted what individuals may see: roads, rivers, mountains. Immediately, we’d like graphics to disclose the invisible patterns that form our lives,” writes James Cheshire, a professor of geographic data and cartography at College Faculty London. These patterns are significantly exhausting to detect once they happen 1000’s of miles away from us—like at the Juneau Icefield in Alaska.

The fifth-largest icefield in the world, Juneau is at the very least 3,000 years previous. As the authors clarify, glaciers are like large conveyor belts: snow piles up, then steadily slides down the valley, serving to the glacier advance at sure speeds. This course of tends to be tremendously sluggish (therefore the expression “at a glacial pace”).

The icefield’s largest glacier, Taku, stored advancing till 2018. Then it began shrinking. The map portrays this shift by suggesting movement as the ice slides down the valley at a lot larger speeds, famous in pink. By some estimates, the authors word, the icefield might be gone in simply 200 years.

[Image: James Cheshire/Oliver Uberti/courtesy W. W. Norton & Company]

Extra frequent cyclones

In 2019, the Arctic Ocean exceeded its historic common by greater than 44 levels Fahrenheit. And because it so occurs, heat water fuels tropical cyclones. This map exhibits an sudden framing of the world’s oceans. By precisely portraying each ocean on the planet as one interconnected physique of water, the authors spotlight the far-reaching affect of world warming. As Cheshire says: “No shore is sheltered from the ripple results of world heating.”

Over the previous 50 years, the quantity of tropical cyclones has risen dramatically. This graphic exhibits that 2019 had 140 cyclones, in comparison with 9 in 1980. Immediately, most of them happen in the Western Pacific, however the costliest storms on report (Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Katrina mixed triggered greater than $300 billion in harm) originated in the Atlantic. As temperatures proceed to rise—primarily from our fossil gasoline consumption—scientists predict that climate change will trigger even larger storms, hotter heatwaves, and heavier rainfalls.

Rising temperatures

“One of the chief misconceptions about the climate disaster is that warming will likely be uniform,” writes Cheshire. To depict the indisputable fact that that is very a lot not the case, the authors used a gradient, with darkish blue indicating a chilly spell and darkish pink signaling a heatwave. Spanning 130 years, the grid means that the 10 hottest years on report have occurred since 2005. In the early 1900s, tiles are overwhelmingly blue, however as the grid progresses towards latest a long time, increasingly more tiles are flush with reddish tones.


In line with NASA and the Nationwide Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2020 tied with 2016 as the hottest year on record. And whereas excessive warmth waves used to occur as soon as per decade, they now happen about three times in 10 years. 

Polluting airplanes

In 2019, about 11.2 million business planes flew over the United States. That’s an inconceivable quantity to grasp, however a hanging internet depicting the mindboggling quantity makes it simpler for readers to visualise.

“There’s an internet of exhaust we don’t see,” writes Cheshire. One trans-Atlantic flight accounts for the identical carbon footprint as two years on a meat-based weight loss plan, or eight years with out recycling. “Selecting to fly is one of the most carbon-intensive selections a person could make.”

Air journey accounts for round 2.5% of world CO2 emissions, however its contribution to climate change is even larger. On prime of the carbon emissions from burning gasoline, the plumes of water vapor and greenhouse gases entice warmth, in the end doubling the warming impact of a aircraft’s emissions. And whereas the pandemic dealt a blow to the airline business, this June registered virtually 2.2 million travelers (nonetheless solely about 74% of the complete on the identical date in 2019).

[Image: James Cheshire/Oliver Uberti/courtesy W. W. Norton & Company]

Excessive warmth threatens Hajj

In 2019, 2.5 million pilgrims from over 20 nations made their solution to the holy metropolis of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The pilgrimage, also called Hajj, is an out of doors ritual that requires individuals to stroll greater than 7 miles in the desert. This journey is most harmful between August and October, when can temperatures can attain 118 levels Fahrenheit, as they did in 2015, when greater than 2,000 hajjis died in a stampede. “Whereas the actual trigger of the crush is unknown, it’s doable that extreme warmth exacerbated the toll,” writes Cheshire.

An illustrative photo voltaic calendar exhibits the projected dates for each hajj this century. If greenhouse fuel emissions aren’t lowered, the graphic means that the warmth threat in 2050 and even 2075 might be as dangerous and even worse than 2015. “When coronavirus instances and deaths started to spike in Saudi Arabia in June 2020, the kingdom introduced strict limits on who may come,” Cheshire writes. “When the pandemic passes, there’ll nonetheless be purpose to restrict the crowds.”