The Arctic Stripes

You probably know the Climate Stripes.

Yes, you know, the blue and red stripes representing the earth’s warming from human emissions.

This powerful representation, invented by @EdHawkins, shows the average earth surface temperature change over the years. From blue to red, it demonstrates how the human greenhouse gas emissions increased the temperature up.

But the changes in temperatures from anthropogenic climate change are not equal everywhere in the world. In fact, it is possible to download the stripes for your own town or region here.

Here we are going to focus on the variations of these stripes with latitude, the north-south variation. In the end, we’ll focus on the Arctic.

Let’s start from the beginning.

Here is a version of the climate stripes of the last 40 years, from the GISTEMP v4 of NASA. The 0°C anomaly — the white — is the global average surface temperature from 1960 to 2010. Each stripe represents a whole year.

Now for this little exercise, let’s add the years and the legend for the colors and the temperatures.

As you can see, the temperature anomaly varies from -0.77°C to +0.77°C (as said, from the 1960-2010 global average).

This represents the temperature increase for the whole earth.

Now, let’s consider what happens to different parts of the earth. First, let’s define the different parts. Let’s take a map of the world:

We separate it into 5 parts (a bit arbitrary, but practical for our purpose here), and name them:

Now, from the data of GISTEMP v4, we can compute the climate stripes for each of these zones, with the same color scale of the global stripes.

And here is the result with the legend and the years for the last 40 years:

The Arctic is now completely red. It means that the Arctic gets warmer than the average earth warming. We can now change the color scale to represent the whole temperature range, and we get:

The color scale is now from -2.64°C to +2.64°C.

This is a known phenomena, called Arctic Amplification.

The Arctic is warming much faster than the rest of the planet.

The whole planet is getting warmer, but the warming is the strongest in the Arctic. This is why many scientific works about the impacts of climate change focus on Arctic regions, e.g., from us at ArcTrain.

The Paris Agreement aims at limiting the temperature increase to 1.5°C globally, but the Arctic has already warmed around 2°C on average (and more during some summer months). Climate change in the Arctic had, has, and will have many impacts on arctic flora, fauna, and human communities, especially indigenous groups.

To finish, let’s create a summary figure by removing the axes and color bar, adding the names of the zones, and adding the global stripes (with the same color scale) for comparison:

Additional materials

Original data from GISTEMP v4

Note that the temperature anomaly can reach up to 10°C in the Arctic during the summer months.

Code and data

Here is an archive with the python3 code (under the GPLv3 license) and the GISTEMPv4 data I used to produce these pictures.

Some details

  • I do not present data before 1960 because of the lack of data for the Arctic regions.
  • When averaging the zonal temperature from GISSTEMP v4, I weigh the temperature average in a zonal bin by its surface(see code)

Acknowledgments: Thanks to Lina Madaj, Charles Brunette, Georg Voelker, Franziska Tell, and Kelsey Koerner for their feedback on the earlier versions of this visualization, as well as on the text.

Creative Commons License
The Arctic Stripes by Damien Ringeisen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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