UAlbany researchers launch climate change visualizer

Albany County
Sapling growing out of a hand

Sapling growing out of a hand. (Akil Mazumder / Pexels)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A new tool developed by researchers at the University at Albany Visualization and Informatics Lab (AVAIL) helps visualize the progress of climate change. AVAIL’s tool offers an interactive way to process as much as two millennia of paleoclimate data from around the globe.

“We know that visualizations can be very powerful,” said Catherine T. Lawson, director of AVAIL and associate professor in UAlbany’s Department of Geography and Planning. She says that the project presents “a new and unique way to share their research with the world,” in order to help scientists and legislators better understand changing weather patterns.

The tool, funded through an ongoing $5 million project from the National Science Foundation, includes three “visualization maps” available to the public:

  • Tree Ring Viewer: Access the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s international tree ring data bank
  • Forest Stress Viewer: Analyze past and future projections (through 2060) of forest stress around the world
  • PHYDA Climate Globe: Reconstructs temperature and hydroclimate trends onto a global interface

In 2017, Mathias Vuille, a professor in UAlbany’s Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, led a team that merged data from the largest tree-ring and cave sediment archives in the Southern Hemisphere. The data let them mimic extreme weather events, analyze societal responses and historical environmental conditions, and make future climate projections based on reconstructions.

Vuille’s team collaborated with AVAIL to translate their research to better inform climate change policies and decisions around the world. “Just having numbers and large datasets is not going to convince most people of the real societal dangers of global climate change,” said Vuille. “We’re grateful to AVAIL for translating our work into a non-scientific language, letting people see it with their own eyes. Even if you’re not a climate scientist, you can still appreciate the hard work and expertise that goes into building something like this.”

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