Climate visualization tools

One of my favorite ways to enhance my teaching is through the use of data visualization tools, which have become both numerous and richly detailed. I thought I would share a few that I have been using in the past few weeks, in case they might be useful.

1. Sea level rise viewer (NOAA)

There are a lot of fantastic tools at NOAA’s Digital Coast portal, but the one I use in almost all of my classes is the Sea Level Rise Viewer.

My usual approach is to embed it in a powerpoint (so students can find it and play with it later), launch it, and then have students call out coastal cities that they know well. I then zoom in on the city and run through 2 feet, 4 feet, and 6 feet of sea level rise. It’s an opportunity to explain a lot of the fundamentals of sea level rise, including mean high water mark and thermal expansion, in addition to providing a valuable lens into the havoc climate change will play with our infrastructure. Because I’m teaching in the Midwest, I often pair it with this graphic highlighting the economic connections between Chicago and port cities.

2. Yale Climate Opinion Maps

It’s a popular misconception that most Americans don’t believe that climate change is happening, and don’t care about its causes or effects. These maps belie that notion, but reveal some sharp divides between cities and rural areas in terms of who is concerned about climate change. It also highlights that people are terribly misinformed about scientific certainty around climate change, and yet at the same time the vast majority of the American public believe that scientists know what they’re doing. Granted, these maps are from 2016 so it’s possible that things have changed in the new “post-truth” era.

I also love this visualization for the way it highlights the popular support for policy action on climate change.

3. The Annual Greenhouse Gas Index (

It only goes up to 2015 but it’s really useful to see how our greenhouse gas emissions are increasing in the US, and which gases those emissions are composed of.

4. Beyond Coal US Plant Map

When I talk about the distribution of coal plants and coal plant risks in the US, this map gives me an awful lot to talk about. It also makes me nostalgic for the West Coast.

These are some of my favorite climate viz tools, please feel free to add your own in the comments!

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