NASA Climate Change channel published a worrying animation titled “Climate Spiral” that visualizes global warming since 1880 in just 70 seconds.
The animation shows that today the average temperatures are about 1°C higher than in 1880.
The visualization above shows monthly global temperature anomalies (changes from an average) between the years 1880 and 2021. Whites and blues indicate cooler temperatures, while oranges and reds show warmer temperatures.
As you can see, global temperatures have warmed from mainly human activities as time has progressed.
These temperatures are based on data from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). Anomalies are defined relative to a base period of 1951 to 1980. The data file used to create this visualization can be accessed here [in CSV format].
The “climate spiral” is a visualization designed by climate scientist Ed Hawkins from the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, University of Reading. You can see also 3D visualizations on that page.
The page mentioned in the previous paragraph will provide regularly updated versions of the climate spiral for several different aspects of the climate. The graphics are free to use with appropriate credit, just click the links for the full versions to download.
Climate spiral visualizations have been widely distributed; a version was even part of the opening ceremony of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Scientific Consensus: Earth’s Climate Is Warming
It’s important to remember that scientists always focus on the evidence, not on opinions. Scientific evidence continues to show that human activities (primarily the human burning of fossil fuels) have warmed Earth’s surface and its ocean basins, which in turn have continued to impact Earth’s climate. This is based on over a century of scientific evidence forming the structural backbone of today’s civilization.
- While Earth’s climate has changed throughout its history, the current warming is happening at a rate not seen in the past 10,000 years.
- According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “Since systematic scientific assessments began in the 1970s, the influence of human activity on the warming of the climate system has evolved from theory to established fact.”
- Scientific information taken from natural sources (such as ice cores, rocks, and tree rings) and from modern equipment (like satellites and instruments) all show the signs of a changing climate.
- From global temperature rise to melting ice sheets, the evidence of a warming planet abounds. The Greenland (Arctic) and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass. Data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show Greenland lost an average of 279 billion tons of ice per year between 1993 and 2019, while Antarctica lost about 148 billion tons of ice per year. (See: NASA visualizes the amount of ice loss from the polar ice caps)
- Satellite observations reveal that the amount of spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has decreased over the past five decades and the snow is melting earlier.
- The global sea level rose about 8 inches (20 centimeters) in the last century. The rate in the last two decades, however, is nearly double that of the last century and accelerates slightly every year.
And this warming is because of us: multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.
In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position. The following is a partial list of these organizations, along with links to their published statements and a selection of related resources.
- Statement on climate change from 18 scientific associations: Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver. (2009)
- American Association for the Advancement of Science: Based on well-established evidence, about 97% of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening. (2014)
- American Chemical Society: The Earth’s climate is changing in response to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and particulate matter in the atmosphere, largely as the result of human activities. (2016-2019)
- American Geophysical Union: Based on extensive scientific evidence, it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. There is no alternative explanation supported by convincing evidence. (2019)
- American Medical Association: Our AMA … supports the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fourth assessment report and concurs with the scientific consensus that the Earth is undergoing adverse global climate change and that anthropogenic contributions are significant. (2019)
- American Meteorological Society: Research has found a human influence on the climate over the past several decades… The IPCC (2013), USGCRP (2017), and USGCRP (2018) indicate that it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-twentieth century. (2019)
- American Physical Society: Earth’s changing climate is a critical issue and poses the risk of significant environmental, social, and economic disruptions around the globe. While natural sources of climate variability are significant, multiple lines of evidence indicate that human influences have had an increasingly dominant effect on global climate warming observed since the mid-twentieth century. (2015)
- The Geological Society of America: The Geological Society of America (GSA) concurs with assessments by the National Academies of Science (2005), the National Research Council (2011), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2013), and the U.S. Global Change Research Program (Melillo et al., 2014) that global climate has warmed in response to increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases… Human activities (mainly greenhouse-gas emissions) are the dominant cause of rapid warming since the middle 1900s (IPCC, 2013). (2015)
- International Academies (Joint Statement): “Climate change is real. There will always be uncertainty in understanding a system as complex as the world’s climate. However, there is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring. The evidence comes from direct measurements of rising surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures and from phenomena such as increases in average global sea levels, retreating glaciers, and changes to many physical and biological systems. It is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities (IPCC 2001). (2005, 11 international science academies)
- U.S. National Academy of Sciences: Scientists have known for some time, from multiple lines of evidence, that humans are changing Earth’s climate, primarily through greenhouse gas emissions.
- U.S. Global Change Research Program: Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities. (2018, 13 U.S. government departments and agencies)
- Climate spirals on the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, University of Reading website
- How Do We Know Climate Change Is Real? on the NASA Climate website
- “Scientific Consensus: Earth’s Climate Is Warming” on the NASA Climate website