Goodbye winter, new tool predicts long, hot summers

Dr Geoff Hinchliffe (eft)) and Associate Professor Mitchell Whitelaw testing the climate tool. Photo: Jack Fox, ANU.

A NEW climate tool visualises data that shows by 2050 Australians will no longer enjoy winter as they know it today and will experience a new season the designers are calling “New Summer”. 

New Summer represents a period of the year where temperatures will consistently peak in many cases well above 40ºC for a sustained period.

Using the tool, people can click on thousands of locations across Australia to see how the local weather in their home town will change by 2050.

Academics from the ANU School of Art & Design have teamed up with colleagues from the ANU Climate Change Institute on the design project, which takes existing data and communicates the impacts of climate change in a way that people can engage with and better understand.

“We looked at the historical average temperatures of each season and compared them to the projected data and what we find everywhere is that there’s really no period of a sustained or lasting winter,” said senior lecturer Dr Geoff Hinchliffe.

“In 30 years’ time, winter as we know it will be non-existent. It ceases to be everywhere apart from a few places in Tasmania,” he said.

The tool – which uses data from the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) and Scientific Information for Land Owners (SILO) – shows how many degrees the average temperature will rise by in each location and how many more days over 30 or 40 degrees a place will have in 2050 compared with today.

“As well as the data, we also focused on developing the most effective visual forms for conveying how climate change is going to affect specific locations,” said Dr Hinchliffe.

“That meant using colour, shape and size around a dial composition showing a whole year’s worth of temperature values in a single snapshot.

“It makes it visually rich and interesting and gives a lot of detail in a way that connects emotionally with people by locating it in their own town,” he said.

“We concentrate on visualisation and storytelling. We don’t want to misrepresent the data or suggest things that aren’t true so the visualisation was instrumental in conveying the data in a way that can be interrogated. It’s like a graph, but more poetic,” said Associate Prof Mitchell Whitelaw.

“The research and innovation here is in the visualisation and compilation of all this data. Our innovation is in the way this existing data is communicated and presented – hopefully in a memorable, engaging way,” he said.

The visual climate tool was prepared for the Australian Conservation Foundation and can be viewed here: myclimate.acf.org.au

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