Show your stripes

It is not unusual these days to see someone wearing a piece of clothing carrying the image of what looks like a kind of coloured barcode. The first thing you notice is that the columns range from a pale blue to an ever more intense shade of red. The idea came from Ed Hawkins – a researcher at the University of Reading in the UK  – who decided that this was a good way to display the increasingly worrying data on global warming. Ed took the average annual temperatures recorded around the world between 1850 and 2018 and placed them next to each other in columns, colouring them blue (for the coldest ones) and gradually through the different shades to deep red for the hottest ones. This produced an image similar to a barcode, in which we can take in at a single glance the significance of the increase in global temperatures.

What is important here is not the data per se, which anyone can find in the information provided by national weather centres. The striking thing is the realization that in the past few decades there have been no “cold” years. In other words, we can easily see that the world is burning. The technique and methodology were repeated for all the areas and countries for which data exists, and were made publicly available from 17 June 2019 on this website .

Not all areas of the planet are heating at the same rate, but if we look at the image for Italy, for example, we can see that the situation is extremely critical. We have been stuck on crimson for almost a decade. We are heating faster than other countries.

In the meantime, the images are spreading: they have been discussed in the media, reproduced in newspapers and used at many conferences. They have even been adopted by the world of fashion to produce t-shirts, bags and other items.