|The Doomsday Clock, above, was moved forward this year to 90 seconds to midnight, the closest to global catastrophe it has ever been. Image: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.|
Reporter’s Toolbox: Here’s Your Handy Doomsday Dataviz Dashboard
By Joseph A. Davis
Climate Week is over, COP28 looks dicey and the climate outlook is grim. Well, we’re not ready to declare doomsday just yet. But environmental journalists may as well get ready for the possibility they’ll have to explain the end of the world as breaking news to an anxious public. With pictures.
Dark humor aside, there’s actually lots of data to help with that. Much of it is graphically and interactively presented in ways that print, web and TV editors love. While some of it comes from news organizations (see more below), government agencies offer a great deal too, as do some NGOs. Check for permission before republishing. Some images are public domain and others you can easily link to.
This Toolbox will be different than usual:
a whirlwind tour through some of the
best disaster-centric interactives and maps.
For a full-fledged end-times index, you might think of data on the price of gold or sales of safe rooms. Our data focus is just environmental. This Toolbox will be different than usual: a whirlwind (sorry) tour through some of the best disaster-centric interactives and maps.
- The Doomsday Clock: This is the grandmother of them all, a 75-year-old graphic (updated annually) by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, meant to illustrate how close we are getting to global catastrophe. Although originally focused on nuclear Armageddon, it has branched out to include things like climate.
- Historical Hurricane Tracks: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, has a whole online system for graphically viewing the tracks of storms going back more than 100 years. It may help visualize the odds of future storms landing near you.
- Current tropical storm tracks: The National Hurricane Center gives you access to all of its hurricane track forecasts via its main page. Sometimes several at once. You can actually trace both Atlantic and Pacific storms.
- Sea Level Rise Viewer: NOAA tracks sea level rise, which varies from place to place.
- Storm Surge Watch/Warning Graphic: Using the many resources from the National Hurricane Center, this tool displays storm surge watches and warnings on maps down to the local level.
- Interactive Flood Information Map: All kinds of flooding info, some of it current, from the National Weather Service. Includes local floods, but it’s amalgamated by state. Includes river stage forecasts in every state.
- National Flood Hazard Layer Viewer: The Federal Emergency Management Agency makes flood maps that are supposed to mean insurability. They are not always reliable. This viewer allows you to find your area graphically.
- Coastal Risk Screening Tool: Climate Central’s searchable, interactive map shows local effects of sea level rise and coastal flooding. It grants permission to reproduce; check out the terms.
- Drought Monitor: Updated weekly as a color static map, multiple agencies combine forces to show what the drought situation is across the United States.
- Fire Information for Resource Management System: The joint NASA and U.S. Forest Service service maps recent wildfires in the U.S. and Canada.
- AirNow: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and many partner agencies map air pollution, including wildfire smoke, for the United States. Updates are in almost real time.
- Long-Term Seismic Hazard Map: A static color map of where in the United States the risk of earthquake is greatest, from the U.S. Geological Survey.
- Seismic Monitor: Mapped presentation of quakes worldwide, in the current timeframe. Maintained by EarthScope Consortium, funded by the National Science Foundation.
Meanwhile, here are some impressive visualizations from news organizations that can help track the coming cataclysm:
- Extreme Weather Maps: The New York Times project shows risks for multiple hazards for multiple locations several days ahead and will send an email per day on days when risks are forecast.
- Maps: Tracking Air Quality and Smoke From Wildfires: Also from the Times, a searchable and interactive map of wildfire smoke pollution in near real time, based on AirNow and other sources. The Times also produced this list of tracking apps (may require subscription).
- Uncharted Waters: One more from the Times, this time interactively mapping the depletion of groundwater in aquifers across the United States (may require subscription).
- 2°C: Beyond The Limit: The Washington Post maps and reports on the places in the United States that have already exceeded the 2°C limit that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change set as the outside boundary.
- What Extreme Heat Does to the Human Body: Another from the Post, a nice map of wet-bulb temperatures included in a larger package about what dangers extreme heat brings (may require subscription).
[Editor’s Note: SEJournal has done much reporting on these topics and tools in the past. For a sampling, see our Topic on the Beat pages on climate change, disasters, hurricanes and wildfires. And keep up with the latest headlines on these topics and more with our EJToday news service.]
Joseph A. Davis is a freelance writer/editor in Washington, D.C. who has been writing about the environment since 1976. He writes SEJournal Online's TipSheet, Reporter's Toolbox and Issue Backgrounder, and curates SEJ's weekday news headlines service EJToday and @EJTodayNews. Davis also directs SEJ's Freedom of Information Project and writes the WatchDog opinion column.
* From the weekly news magazine SEJournal Online, Vol. 8, No. 37. Content from each new issue of SEJournal Online is available to the public via the SEJournal Online main page. Subscribe to the e-newsletter here. And see past issues of the SEJournal archived here.