New Interactive Climate Change Map Shows Global Similarities

Tehran and Salt Lake City aren't that different when one looks at their climate change impact, according to scientists.

A new interactive map shows how the world is more connected than ever before -- specifically with regard to climate change. The ClimateEx map project from researchers with the University of Cincinnati not only tells users about an area's climate history; it can pair up a city with its "climate twin" across the globe. 

In order to create the map, geography professor Tomasz Stepinski and his team had to gather over 50 years worth of meteorological data across 50,000 international weather databases throughout the world. 

"The map demonstrates climate change over time but also climate diversity. The concept is powerful and can inspire a lot of research," Stepinski said.

Stepinski is a massive fan of statistics. Another famous project of his involved a highly-detailed map of racial diversity found in every neighborhood in the United States. However, he's long been a fan of climate research and wanted to combine his two passions. Originally from Poland, Stepinski spent a large part of his career looking for how statistics could best be represented visually. 

"I've lived in Houston, Tucson and Cincinnati. Climatically speaking, they couldn't be farther apart," he said.

Stepinski teamed up with fellow Polish researcher Pawel Netzel and developed this visual way for climatologists and other scientists to study patterns and compare climates over time in nearly any location around the world. 

New Interactive Climate Change Map Shows Global Similarities
Source: University of Cincinatti

ClimateEx also details which parts of the globe have been most affected by global warming and other climate issues. While the poles and surrounding areas show distinct changes, the tropics do as well. Stepinski noted that it's due to monthly rainfall. 

"When people think about climate change, they think about temperature: global warming," he said. "But climate has many components, including precipitation. People often consider temperature and precipitation separately. But our mathematical model includes both."

New Interactive Climate Change Map Shows Global Similarities
Source: University of Cincinatti

Netzel said even beyond using it for climate research, the map is a fun tool for anyone looking for their ideal climates elsewhere in the world. 

"Using ClimateEx, it is easy to get answers to questions such as where in the world do we have a climate similar to Houston's? Where can I find a place with a climate as pleasant as Florida's?"

"ClimateEx is mostly an educational tool," Netzel said. "Using ClimateEx, it is easy to get answers to questions such as where in the world do we have a climate similar to Houston's? Where can I find a place with a climate as pleasant as Florida's?"

This also gives users a tool in finding places that could be more greatly affected by larger weather events like hurricanes, monsoons, flooding, severe storms, snow, or droughts given the area's history and trajectory. 

"ClimateEx enables an easy search for locations where climate change may lead to the occurrence of such extreme phenomena in the future," he said. "The user simply indicates the location where tornadoes are presently frequent and ClimateEx finds all locations where in 50 years the climate will be conducive to tornadoes."

Netzel also qualified what type of use the ClimateEx map would be perfect for. 

"It can support strategic, long-term planning and decision-making on the future development of urbanized space," he said. "It helps to prepare for emerging threats such as increasing the frequency or appearance of extreme weather phenomena. Knowledge about the possibility of hazards will give city planners time to prepare appropriate response plans."

In a statement, Stepinski was direct about his feelings for those who don't worry about climate change and write off global warming as just a 'phase.'

"If you were looking at climate change at a scale of a million years, you wouldn't worry too much," Stepinski said. "But if you see dramatic changes on the order of a few decades, it's a big problem. Personally I'm not happy there are people who seem to disregard this as not much of a problem. It is a problem."

And as for Cincinnati's climate twin? Stepinski said it's Vicenza, Italy -- not a bad place to be if the team ever wanted a vacation. 

"You will see that both Cincinnati's and Vicenza's climates have a similar progression of weather conditions throughout the year," he said. "So a person would experience the passing of the seasons in the same way in both places."