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Map Your Local Climate Change With Weather Data

Jan Lee headshotWords by Jan Lee
Data & Technology
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It's often hard to see the local evidence of climate change. That long string of hot days that dried out the lawn earlier than usual this summer may have just seemed like an opportune time to enjoy more warm weather. And that torrential rainstorm or colder-than-usual winter last year may well have been mistaken for just another strange entry for Farmer's Almanac.

But now, thanks to the people at ClimateCentral, we have another visual way to track our wonky weather: WX Shift.

Developed with the help of meteorologists, engineers, climate statisticians and other scientists, the WX Shift website offers a real-time, localized view of just what climate change means. It identifies your location and presents data that visually explains just what's been happening throughout the season in your neck of the woods.

Live in San Francisco? WX maps out the temps for the past 45 years, showing an erratic but steadily-climbing warming trend. It's late September and expected to reach almost 80 degrees tomorrow.

And how about Portland, Oregon, the heart of the rainy, misty Pacific Northwest? Sixty percent of the state is now under severe drought that is projected to continue into the new year.

Want further proof? The "surprise me" button brings up examples of towns and states with their own trends. Clicking on the "seasonal" button translates the daily changes into three- to four-month averages, all with their own seasonal trends.

WX Shift also has educational components, like the Shum Show, which gives an overview of global weather patterns and tidbits that help us understand just why things like sea ice and someone else's stifling hot weather is bad news for our cities and forests. The 10 key indicators section at the bottom of each page helps you understand why phenomena like El Niño or declining land ice are considered warning signs for escalating climate change.

If there were any criticism to be mentioned of WX Shift, it is its overly local appeal. Including temperature and trend comparisons from other countries would only help to broaden the reader's view of just why climate change is a global threat, and why Americans need to be concerned about weather crises and humanitarian issues in other parts of the world. Hopefully this is a developing feature.

Still, even with its small limitations, WX Shift is an attitude-changer. It may well be this year's greatest conversation starter (or stopper) for the next cocktail party, but it also puts to rest the notion that bad weather is like history, fashion or food fads: always repeating and always getting better. Climate change, even when it is tracked from your backyard patio, is a global issue that won't disappear until it's addressed.

Image credits: 1) Flickr/Deepti Hari; 2) Flickr/Development Planning Unit, University College London

Jan Lee headshotJan Lee

Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.

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