2019 years

The most common comment on the ‘Warming Stripes’ visualisations is: ‘what happened before 1850’?

I’m glad you asked.

We have a new reconstruction of global temperature going back to the year 1AD thanks to the work of the PAGES2k team. This reconstruction includes data from a wide variety of proxy records such as tree rings, cave deposits, corals, etc.

The warming over the past 50 years is stark compared to the variations that have occurred naturally over the last 2000 years. It is not normal.

The PAGES2k reconstruction also comes with uncertainty estimates, and so can be visualised in a more standard way, with key relevant global events added, such as large volcanic eruptions, the Maunder solar minimum and historical dates of scientific discoveries.

The data show that the modern period is very different to what occurred in the past. The often quoted Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age are real phenomena, but small compared to the recent changes. In this example, the reference period is 1850-1900, which is often used as an approximate ‘pre-industrial’ level.

The invention of the efficient steam engine in 1790 by James Watt kick-started the industrial revolution and our reliance on burning fossil fuels for energy. This has brought many benefits to humankind, but we are now experiencing the side effects of that development.

Data: PAGES2k

About Ed Hawkins

Climate scientist in the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) at the University of Reading. IPCC AR5 Contributing Author. Can be found on twitter too: @ed_hawkins

20 thoughts on “2019 years

  1. Hello,

    Why is WMP not visible on this graph? We show this period but if we had to guess it, nobody would see anything on this graph. Is it because it is a global reconstruction and the WMP is a non-global phenomenon ?

    1. Yes, this is a global reconstruction which shows a very weak warm period. It would have looked relatively warmer in the 1960s, when the period was named, and because the data further back didn’t exist.

  2. Great figure! Maybe it complicates the figure too much, but I wonder if it’s worth putting in some marker for the role of aerosol pollution in the mid-twentieth century.

      1. RE: Craming too much in

        Actually this is an excellent chart — a suggestion cries out for a follow up graph with the x-access starting around 1900…. up to 2020.

  3. Brilliant graphics! I work for a large/global commodities trading firm and I greatly appreciate these novel visualisations which I use to convey climate information to my colleagues. Keep up this important work!

  4. Please can I request to label the end year on the X axis on both of these graphs, so they are still valid in a few years’ time. Or add to titles 1 AD – 2019 AD.

  5. Is there any indication that the climate was impacted by the death of the Aztec and Mayan civilizations and the recovery of the environment after those and other American civilizations disappeared?

  6. Dear Ed,

    thanks a lot for the vis (and the cool talk at data stories podcast). 🙂
    I wanted to suggest if it wouldn’t be helpful to put the stripe vis into a white frame rather than a dark one.
    The thing is that the darkest red stripes then tend to blend with the dark-gray frame and thus seem as a part of the frame rather than displaying high values. Therefore I believe surrounding it with white would help the readability.

    Also, I would like to ask if it be okay with you to add the white frame to it and publish it at our twitter @faktaoklimatu (referencing you of course). In short, we try to communicate data about climate (change) in a comprehensive (and often visual) way in Czech language.

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