XKCD's massive, vertical climate change infographic

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/09/12/xkcds-massive-vertical-clim.html


I’ll just go and delete my “Wrath” thread now…


At least we’ve made it massively warmer, not colder, though, right?

My commute would really suck if my house was under a mile of ice.


How would your commute look if Boston were under 100 feet of seawater?


I don’t live in Boston, so I’ll be fine!

I was wrong, anyway, Seattle was only under about 1/2 mile of ice, so no problem. And the cliffs are about 300ft high.


Don’t worry, we’ll get our carbon emissions under control and solve this problem with technology.


ELI5: I was under the impression that pre-industrial warming and cooling was due to changes in solar output, not changes in the Earth’s orbit. What perturbs the Earth’s orbit in such a meaningful way and why is it with some regularity? Even a Jupiter-Saturn-Earth alignment (whatever the optimal configuration of such a thing, and assuming it is sufficient) occurs every ~325 years, not on the longer cycle suggested.


I wonder some about the relative benefits. I mean, I know a glacial period would mean the end of at least most civilization and so most people. For one thing, our best arable land is right where the ice sheets were, precisely because of the scouring they did. On the other hand, we are going to lose a lot of that anyway.

And one thing I can say is that essentially all the species on earth could survive a glaciation, because we are all only a few millennia removed from the survivors of the last one. That’s not to say they would all make it to where they need to be, or that habitat loss hasn’t taken those places away. But at least we know they are adapted to that kind of planet. A switch to a hothouse climate comes with no such promises.


Really nice work.

Now that he’s done with climate change, I wonder what’s next?


You know, we should start writing, and opening pages, at the bottom, and scroll up, so that the timelines can go in the proper direction…


I am not qualified in any way, shape, or form, but I think the warming/cooling based on solar output is on an 11-year cycle.


Brilliant, thank you!


11 years for sunspot cycles.

21,000 to 413,000 years for the various Milankovitch cycles.


Here’s a graph with a longer timeline than what XKCD picked:

It points out the Milankovitch cycles.


I think xkcd provides a better visualizaton of the speed of the current changes.


The #1 mistake in telling the climate change story is that it’s continuing to use Centigrade. This needs to be told in Fahrenheit too, because the driver of denial is America where Fahrenheit dominates. Three advantages:

It’s not some foreign system (sarcasm intended)
Deltas are twice as big, twice as impressive
In USA, water freezes at 32 so a rise from 2 to 6 is no biggie.


Sure, but it leaves out an awful lot of interesting stuff. Just how hot was it the last time all of our ice caps melted? How fast did they go away? How fast did they come back? During the big extinctions linked to climate change, how do today’s changes compare?

The short version is that the earth’s axis slowly wobbles (precession of the equinoxes), and the earth’s orbit slowly wibbles (precession of perihelion), and finally the plane of the earth’s orbit slowly bobbles. It all adds up to a 20,000-ish year cycle of natural and gradual climate change, which, absent factors that could cancel out the effect (like deforestation or a change in ocean circulation), can be enough to trigger a shift from an ice age to a warm interglacial period or vice versa.

If summer in the Northern hemisphere happens when Earth is closest to the sun, you get warmer summers = more complete thawing of winter ice, which can trigger a warm interglacial, all other factors being favourable. If summer happens when earth is farthest from the sun, you get milder summers = more ice that doesn’t melt in the summer, which can build up over time, which, all factors being favourable, can trigger the start of an ice age.


…Although the logarithmic time scale makes the current warming appear less abrupt than it really is.