Alarming New Animation Shows The Months Are Indeed Getting Warmer

Respect the GIF.

Gavin Schmidts GIFs, especially. The climatologist and director of NASAs Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) has a knack for distilling large amounts of data into easily digestible animations, often illustrating historical shifts in our climate.

Earlier this month, Schmidt came up with a new one, showing monthly temperature distributions and how theyve changed since the late 19th century:

Gavin Schmidt /
Schmidt’s animation shows fluctuations in monthly GISS Surface Temperature Analysis data (GISTEMP) over time, broken into 30-year periods.

Simply put, the animation illustrates how often a month reached certain temperatures over time. Taller peaks for each months individual graph indicate that month hitting that temperature more often, while lower ones mean those temperatures were less frequent. (The more technical term for this is a histogram or frequency plot.)

And as is evident by the slug-like plots inching to the right over time, the Earths temperature is heating up.

At the end of the animation, Schmidt included red and black boxes to indicate individual temperatures for 2016 and 2017, respectively, all of which are clearly on the far right of the graph, around 2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than historical averages.

And heres a version of the graphic that illustrates the same warming trend in the context of broader seasonal temperature shifts.

Gavin Schmidt /
January is the new March.

Beyond simply becoming warmer, Schmidt told HuffPost theres another interesting trend the GIF reveals: sharper monthly temperature swings.

In earlier periods toward the beginning of the century, youll notice the monthly slugs are more tightly compressed, indicating most of the days in those months landed within a narrower temperature range. In recent decades however, the slugs are shorter and longer, signifying less consistent daily temperatures.

If its very tall and narrow, it means that the months were all very similar over that period, Schmidt said, while if they arent, then there were relatively more extremes.

Per Schmidt,some of the stretching can be attributed to El Nio, an atmospheric and oceanic event in which warm water in the Pacific Ocean shifts east from the South Pacific toward the coast of South America. In recent decades, however, he said its due to larger climactic warming trends.

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