Land, Water, and Climate Change in Five Interactive Maps

These five well-designed digital maps act as “exploratory ‘what ifs,'” linking historical data to future projects, helping policymakers relate global patterns to regional and local contexts, and demystifying climate science.

Robert E. Roth’s post originally appeared in Edge Effects, the blog of the Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE) of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

Sea Level Trends: Nearly all water level stations in the U.S. have observed an increase in sea level, several approaching a centimeter a year (e.g., Eugene Island, LA, depicted above). The few stations observing decreased levels have experienced tectonic activity, causing a change in elevation in the water level station itself.

Sea Level Trends. Source: NOAA.

What do maps effectively communicating the consequences of climate change look like? I recently worked with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Sea Grant Institute to design the Lake Level Viewer, a map-based visualization of the future “possibility space” for each of the five Great Lakes coasts of North America. In contrast to rising sea levels, prevailing thought in the scientific community is that warmer temperatures and decreased ice cover will drive a trend toward lower Great Lakes water levels, although the actual long-term impact on lake levels remains unclear. The water levels across the Great Lakes already set or approached record lows in 2012-2013 and are becoming increasingly variable year-to-year…

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