Meteorologists show their stripes to bring climate change awareness

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By: Charles Roop | WCTV Pinpoint Weather

June 21, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) — It’s not only the first day of summer, but it’s also a day where meteorologists in the U.S. and across the globe show their stripes. Some of the stripes were on ties, cups, earrings, and even on screens. And it was to bring awareness about a warming planet.

For the second straight year, atmospheric scientists showed images depicting a warming world with blue colors that show below normal temperatures with red colors showing above normal. Each vertical line represented a year with most of them going back to the late 19th century, and many images showed one thing: That Earth has warmed over time. That was no different for Tallahassee.

Temperature anomalies over time in Tallahassee

There were warmer periods in the early 20th Century in Tallahassee, but temperatures have increased in recent decades and the trend has been going up since 1940.

The average annual temperature in Tallahassee since 1940 along with the regression trend line.

Temperatures have increased in the Arctic as the ice melts at a rapid pace. And, yes, even throughout the globe.

Temperature anomalies over time globally

But how did these images arrive on many social media accounts and select television screens?

“It came about kind of organically, as we like to see,” said Sean Sublette, a meteorologist with Climate Central.

Ed Hawkins, a climate scientist at the University of Redding in the United Kingdom, came up with an idea on how to show the warming trend of each year, according to Sublette, to better visualize the data. He applied that concept to show temperatures increasing across the globe.

“And he took data for the U.K. And we each saw people taking data for other parts of the world,” Sublette said.

Hawkins shared the coding and data with Climate Central, and they were able to apply it to many other locations in the United States and the world.

Jeff Berardelli, a Climate Change and Weather Contributor for CBS News, had the idea of spreading the word on this new visualization and sharing it with other meteorologists across the U.S.

“We wanted to see if we could kind of give that a little bit of an extra push…and get that message out to all points across the country,” Sublette said.

He says that, compared to last year, he is “surprised” at how much the graphics and information have spread on the Internet this year.

People should care about human-induced climate change because, according to Sublette, it will begin to impact the way people live over time.

“We’re ultimately going to see changes in agricultural zones, which means crop prices are going to go up,” he said. “That’s going to affect the economy. That’s going to affect farming.”

Crops that will likely be impacted would be items like coffee, chocolate, beer, and wine, he said.

But it’s not just the increased intensity and frequency of droughts and floods, but something more buggy would happen locally.

“Especially in places like North Florida, you are going to start seeing mosquito seasons lasting a little bit longer into the fall and starting earlier into the spring,” Sublette said.

The increased mosquito population would increase the risk of diseases such as West Nile, Malaria, and Dengue fever.

A warming world will affect us all, beyond lines and colors.