Zack Labe (PhD candidate @ The University of California Irvine) joins the show to discuss his viral climate science GIFs from Twitter, the dynamics of warming within the Arctic & how that affects the rest of the world + how climate models work to evaluate the current state and future evolution of the climate.
In this episode I had the pleasure to speak to Zack Labe - a PhD candidate in the Department of Earth System Science at The University of California Irvine.
Zack's research revolves around the warming of the Arctic region and the degree to which sea ice varies every year. His work is quite popular especially on Twitter particularly because he creates really interesting graphs and GIFs which showcase the science in a visually compelling way that helps drive across the findings of his research.
I wanted to chat to Zack to better understand the dynamics of warming within the Arctic, what the seasonal melting and freezing of sea ice actually means, which factors contribute to sea level rise and essentially how scientists work with climate models to analyse the present situation and try to model the future. We also looked at tipping points which is a hot topic particularly if we cross 2 degrees of warming.
We spoke quite a bit about the power behind visualizing climate science and I'll make sure to link some of Zack's work in the show notes.
To me this conversation shed a ton of light on what scientists do day-to-day, how we can interpret their work and how important it is to understanding the extent to which people are already affected by climate change.
ZACK'S RELEVANT LINKS
Twitter Profile - https://twitter.com/ZLabe
Website - https://sites.uci.edu/zlabe/
3:55 - His Background & How He Became a Climate Scientist
11:54 - How The Arctic Warming & Sea Ice Variations Affect The Rest Of The World
16:01 - Tipping Points In The Arctic
22:32 - What Factors Lead To Overall Sea Level Rise?
24:32 - How Climate Models Work & His Interest In Visualizations
38:14 - How People In The Arctic Are Already Affected By Climate Change
42:26 - Science Vs Business vs Politics vs Society
RESOURCES DISCUSSED IN THIS EPISODE
Earth system science - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_system_science
The impact of Arctic warming on the midlatitude jetstream: Can it? Has it? Will it? - https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/43094399.pdf
Some of Zack's first Twitter graphs - https://twitter.com/ZLabe/status/732325142383091712
Zack's most viral tweet - https://twitter.com/ZLabe/status/967838618252320768
And his hometown newspaper covering it - https://www.pennlive.com/news/2018/02/harrisburg-area_scientist_is_b.html
Multiple line graphs - https://twitter.com/ZLabe/status/1194296254240415746
Ed Hawkins' stripes - https://showyourstripes.info/
Ed Hawkins' climate spiral - https://twitter.com/ed_hawkins/status/1136208796810960897?lang=en
Zack Labe: (00:00)
And I think people don't realize it. There's a lots of people within the Arctic circle in that general geographic region that are affected by changes today I'm lost. The CIS is affecting indigenous communities all across the Arctic circle. These are communities that rely on the ice for transportation, for hunting and fishing for just communication and their livelihoods and Mmm. It's affecting them today and that we should be aware that this is ongoing and we should consider it [inaudible] how dramatic these changes are already affecting communities and how it's going to get worse going in the future. If we don't, we don't become aware of what's going on today. And if we're not aware of what's happening now, it's going to be difficult to try to prevent further warning.
YBW Intro: (00:55)
Ladies and gentlemen, you've been more, it's time to figure out the climate crisis with the top scientists, activists, and entrepreneurs helping us get out of this mess. Now let's welcome your host. Did I? Gosh. In three two, one
In this episode I had the pleasure to speak to Zach Lape, a PhD candidate in the department of earth system science at the university of California Irvine. Zach's research revolves around the warming of the Arctic region and the degree to which CIS varies every year. His work is quite popular, especially on Twitter particularly because he creates these amazing, really interesting graphs and gifts which showcase the science in a visually compelling way that helps drive across the findings of his research. I wanted to chat to Zach to better understand the dynamics of warming within the Arctic, what the seasonal melting and freezing of CIS actually means, which factors contribute to sea level rise and essentially how scientists work with climate models to analyze the present situation and try to model the future. We also looked at quite an important topic which are tipping points, a hot topic, especially if we cross two degrees of warming.
We spoke quite a bit about the power behind visualizing climate science and I'll make sure to link some of Zach's work in the show notes. To me, this conversation shed a ton of light on what scientists do day to day, how we can interpret their work and how important it is to understanding the extent to which people are already affected by climate change. All right, let's do it. All right. So I'm joined now by SAC lay PI. Zach, welcome to the show. Thanks for having me. Yeah, it's awesome to have you. I I follow you on Twitter and you have these amazing graphs that we already spoke about. You, you, I mean, I don't want to to give away too much, but you basically specialize in examining the Arctic and the, the extent to which a CIS is disappearing or evaporating. I'm not sure if I'm using scientific terms, but you have these these really cool graphs and gifs which really illustrate everything in, in really cool ways for everyone to understand. So that's why I wanted really wanted to interview you because I think that's a really cool way of communicating for one. And I was really curious to, to hear your perspective on that and how you view these things. But before we actually go there maybe you can tell people a bit about your background, why you decided to, to study the climate in depth and a bit more details about your PhD and what your work consists of.
Zack Labe: (03:55)
Yeah, sure. That sounds great. So I'm going to go way back to when I was really young in middle school and elementary school and I grew up in Pennsylvania and kind of a small town. I never heard of climate change until college. I, I had heard of it but I had, not formally, you know, or squirming but nothing else beyond that. It just wasn't kind of a taboo topic in my town. And I grew up really interested in weather and I thought I was going to go into weather forecasting. I would stay up late until two or 3:00 AM in the morning growing up and watch the snow fall. And I have journals that have hourly weather observations that go back. Since I was in elementary school, I was really passionate about how can we improve weather forecasts particularly I was interested in winter storms.
Zack Labe: (04:44)
I love snow and blizzards and everything like that. So fast forward. And I went to college and did my undergrad at Cornell university in New York and went into atmospheric sciences. So I thought I was going to go forecast the weather and atmospheric sciences is synonymous with new urology. I'm just talking, understanding weather and through college I thought weather forecasting and then I kind of got interested in in how does weather affect business and how does it affect energy markets, commodities. And I thought I was going to go into a field called weather derivatives in a sense. She's at just how does sort of seasonal weather conditions or extreme events effect, isn't it? For instance, you know, if we have a drought year in the middle of the United States during the summer, how does that affect crops? Like the price of wheat. And I thought I was going to go into this whole energy and I got a business economics minor in college and then there was a new professor at Cornell and I decided to try something different and going through research.
Zack Labe: (05:55)
And this professor was really inspirational, energetic about climate science and I kind of just emailed him how did the bloom was like, I don't know what I'm doing but I'm interested in doing research with you. I had no idea what kind of topic. I mean I've always been interested in sort of these climate patterns. One is called, and I'll talk about a little later called the North Atlantic oscillation. It's just this pattern of climate variability in the North Atlantic in it. It affects whether in the Northern hemisphere. So I've always kind of been interested in that. And so anyway, he sort of took me under his wing and got me into computer programming and introducing me to climate models. And at that time I finally started getting formal education on climate change in climate science. Mmm. It was, couldn't believe then that I had, this had been ongoing and I had never been introduced about climate science prior to this.
Zack Labe: (06:54)
It was shocking. It's like I remember that my first climate class, actually this was freshman year of college and know we were introduced to the science and I was like, wow, this is so straight forward. I can't believe I've never been taught this. And I don't understand why this is controversial when the science to describe it is so straight forward. Of course the details and nuances are what's interesting in my opinion, but the idea that climate is warming because of the introduction of fossil fuels due to humans and greenhouse gas emissions. There's no question. It's really obvious. So aye all wow, this is awesome. I'm working with climate model data. You know what? Essentially I would sit at my computer, the end of college and just analyze climate models. Then my first project was kind of on how does a warming climate affect to the onset of spring in the United States.
Zack Labe: (07:53)
So what that means is how does warming temperatures affect when plants bloom and how does that affect agriculture and ecosystems? And I basically use this model that took observations of when plants would leaf out and bloom and plugged in some of that data with a climate model projection going through 2100 to see how earlier or later could spring occur in the United States. And with a warming climate, it's kinda obvious that it's going to come become earlier. But we found other interesting aspects of how do these earlier Springs effect ecosystems and things like that. So anyway, long story short then I was like, well, I want to go to grad school. You know, I'm not as interested in this business side of things. I wasn't, you know, really inspired by my economics classes, but I felt really inspired about climate science and climate science still incorporates my interest in weather because now I'm taking a look at, well, how does climate change and variability affect weather conditions?
Zack Labe: (09:04)
So there's a direct crossover to my interest in weather from when I was 10 years old to what I do now. So I applied to graduate programs and I was looking for a program that was a bit broader than my undergrad. Which was focused on atmospheric sciences to understand climate and climate change. And there's kind of two different things that are connected. I wanted a program that was more interdisciplinary. And so right now for my PhD, I'm in [inaudible] earth systems science program. And so I have my colleagues in the same building. Some of them studied the ocean study and some of them study land processes, some study glaciers and ice sheets. I study still atmospheric sciences more so in CIS. But I'm in this building where there's all of these people working together to try to understand the earth system and how it's going to be effected by climate.
Zack Labe: (10:05)
So that's a broad overview of my department. What I specifically work on is I'm trying to understand how changes in the Arctic. So Arctic is warming a lot faster than the rest of the planet and that's due to various feedbacks which we can talk about later. So I'm trying to understand how these rapid changes in the Arctic that are already ongoing and expected to continue into the future. How are these changes affecting weather and climate conditions further South? So is it possible that loss of CIS is affecting the weather in Europe or North America? And that's what I'm trying to understudy. And it's kind of a hot topic climate science. And as you'll see from talking with me, there is no good answer to are they connected. But that's kind of what I'm looking at now and I'm in the last year, my pH D so I'm actually graduating and defending my thesis in spring, in the spring.
Zack Labe: (11:09)
And then I'm starting a postdoc at Colorado state university where I'm going to be working on using artificial intelligence and machine learning methods to better disentangle climate change versus variability. And you'll hear me say that talking with me a lot. Because it's important to consider both natural variability and anthropogenic climate change. So I'm going to be using starting next year, well this summer. Mmm. These types of statistical tools to better disentangle the two. That's kind of an overview of me background. It makes a ton of sense. So I know you said there's no easy answers. What's the conclusion
Of years of my CSUs? What's, what's the conclusion with regards to the Arctic now seriously? Like how, how does it affect, is there any like strong conclusion that can be drawn? What are we looking at? Because if you're saying it's warming faster than other parts of the globe and the CIS extent is decreasing, I would assume on the whole what are the effects of that? So it would be
Zack Labe: (12:20)
Seem obvious that a huge change in one part of the globe would affect another location. You know, in the Arctic where temperatures are warming at two to three times faster than anywhere else and where losses of CIS have been dropping, you know, in the month of September at the end of summer, like a 10% loss per decade, you would think that a dramatic change like that part of the climate system would affect somewhere else. However, as I've been mentioning, we have this internal variability. So day to day we have weather and you know, some days it's hot, some days it's cold. And then there's also this year to year or decadal variability in our atmosphere in our oceans. [inaudible] Trying to detect
Zack Labe: (13:09)
The effect direct effect of climate change compared to this variability on daily two decade old to multi-decadal timescales. It's really hard. So there are, I didn't come up with this, but there is a paper that came out a while ago who was trying to talk about these Arctic connections and how it affects weather and they framed it really I think awesome. And I use it all the time and they framed it in three questions. Mmm. Can Arctic sea ice loss affect the weather? Has it effected the weather and will it affect the weather? So using client model simulations, and this is part of my thesis work, we know that Arctic sea ice loss can affect the weather. Yeah. Further South in other locations has, it is the hard question and that's this where we have to disentangle the pieces. And I think if I were to give you an answer today, I'd probably say we can't detect it right now.
Zack Labe: (14:17)
That it's just between this huge variability in the climate change so far, it's very hard to [inaudible] direct link. But will it going to the future is also that interesting question because we know that the warming is just going to continue intensify in the Arctic and we're going to see more and more sea ice loss and we'll see loss of snow covering [inaudible] ecosystems. So the the change is becoming bigger and the question is then when does that change become so big that we can detect the wink, two other latitudes. And then there's another piece of it in that is that climate change is not just affecting the Arctic in isolation. Climate change is also affecting areas in the tropics and it's warming the climate overall. So how do those changes? For instance, in the tropics, how do they compete with the changes in the far North in the art, which one, we call it a tug of war.
Zack Labe: (15:20)
Which one kind of wins because on one hand you have the Tropic warming from climate change trying to push push the jet stream North and the jet stream is just this fast movement of winds that guides weather systems. So it tries to push it nor, but the Arctic warming is trying to push itself. So then which one, where does the gesturing go? And it's this tug of war. And that's also really fascinating research question. But F to go back, we know that Ken, it is possible that they can be physically connected, but it's very hard to say has it.
Okay. No, it's, I mean, I w I would never expect the science to be black, black or white because that's why it's science. But you can kind of spot trends and certain cause causes and effects, I guess from it. Could you explain? So you mentioned that we can't, we, it's hard to ascertain right now if it's changing, but it might be possible to do it in the future. I know in, in the IPC report and all the scientists they talk apart from the warming that they project leading up to 2100. They talk about tipping points, which in other words are, are certain points where the warming has basically overthrown the system so much that they, they fall into an irreversible, on an irreversible path. I'm not sure if I'm describing it accurately, but probably it's somewhere around that. What kind of tipping points, what kind of tipping points could we expect or what's the speculation around that? If we accelerate past 1.5 and pass two degrees of warming? I mean let's talk in particular to the, to the Arctic and the CIS extent. I'm sure we can talk about others, but that that's the thing that you're probably most aware of.
Zack Labe: (17:16)
Yeah. So tipping points are an interesting question because you first have to start off with what is the tipping point? And you said it's this idea of is there a point we push some type of instance ecosystem into a state that it can't go back. We change its means state. And thinking about CIS, we have to understand first that CIS as a seasonal cycle. So basically that means that in the summer it melts and it's getting a lot of sunlight that time of year. But during the, it becomes something called polar night. It doesn't get any solar radiation at all. It's pitch black. Okay. And then it grows. So we have this idea of CIC is melting in the summer, in growing in the winter and every month of the year it's becoming less and less so it doesn't grow as much every winter and it melts more in the summer and that's climate change.
Zack Labe: (18:12)
But we have this seasonal cycle. So the idea is can see ice go into a tipping point. Is there a point where it becomes so warm that CIS just melts, melts, melts in, melts, and then it disappears and doesn't come back. And what's interesting is that we can actually use climate models to test this theory to see does it come back? And it goes back to this seasonal cycle in that during the winter it's really cold in the Arctic. Even if even now with a lot of warming or any in the arts due to climate change, it's still really cold in the Arctic, especially in the middle of the Arctic. So our climate models actually suggest that sea ice is not going to disappear during the winter time, even in 2100 under the worst case scenario. However, during the summer with an increase in warming, like one and a half degrees, two degrees Celsius, we start increasing the probability that seed ice disappeared at the end of summer after all of the melting has occurred, especially in the month of September at the very end of summer.
Zack Labe: (19:30)
So I see sea ice as not necessarily tips into a point, but we increase the probability that it disappears in the summer and we always see it then growing back in the winter because it's not getting any sunlight, it's still really, really cold. I mean, you know well, well below zero degrees. So we see this kind of difference in seasons of how it changes. And then there's another question. So there's a different argument about a tipping point in the Arctic that says we've already been in a tipping point in CIS. And that idea is that sea ice in the Arctic during the summer, it doesn't all melt. So some of the CIS actually survives this summer and then grows more in the winter. So becomes something what we call multi-year ice. That means the ice is several years old. It's very FIC work order of three to six meters in some areas.
Zack Labe: (20:33)
And in the ant Arctic at the South pole, that ice is very young. It's so their season changes are much more different. So their CIS doesn't [inaudible] generally last all summer. So it's always new. So there's this idea of, because of the Arctic, we have lost and melted a lot of this really old in thick ice that now a lot of the ice is one year ice. It's young, it's thin. So there's this idea that we've tipped to the Arctic from what used to be this area where the ice was very old and very thick. The two an Arctic that's acts kind of more like an Arctic sea ice where the CIS is much younger, much thinner, much more raw and vulnerable to change. So you can argue, you know, has changes in the age and thickness of ice. Have we tipped into a new state? [inaudible]
Zack Labe: (21:33)
It's not really an interesting word, but a lot of people call it the new Arctic right now. And it's this state that seeing extreme events, increasing heat waves into the Arctic during winter and younger, thinner ice that's more vulnerable for communities that rely on the ice. So there are some people who like to frame, you know, tipping point and wonder if we tip to the Arctic into this new Arctic state. Mmm. So it can go both ways. But it's important to understand that ice has this seasonal cycle, so every winter it grows. So if you see, you know, someone who's skeptical or misinforming about Arctic sea ice, they lost a lot of times, like to say the ice is growing miss winter. Well, yeah, I've grows every winter, you know, but it's a lot. It's growing up, you know, it's, it's less than previous winters. So I think it's important to have bring some context to that.
I can see, I can see how that can be used as a, as an argument to deny climate change because the ice. But how does that, how do all these tipping points, I guess, what would be affected as the, are the oceans, right? Like the sea or the sea level rise?
Zack Labe: (22:51)
Yup. That's important to understand. So sea ice is frozen a sea water. So essentially what? That's like an ice cube in a glass. If you have an ice cube in your glass of water and the ice cube melts, it doesn't raise the level of water in your glass. It doesn't overflow your glass if all the ice word of, and it's the same idea with sea ice. Sea ice is art, just like an ice cube floating there. And it follows Archimedes' principle and it doesn't increase the sea level. What does increase sea level rise and what we're concerned about, or ice sheets like Greenland and Antarctica and glaciers, you know, mountain glaciers are where there's lots of glaciers actually within the Arctic and the Canadian Arctic. And there's interesting research trying to understand how changes in of sea ice can actually increase melting in areas like Greenland. Mmm. You sometimes see ice likes to form along the edges of Greenland and that helps sort of secure the glaciers within Greenland. But if you start melting away this kind of barrier that is CIS, then there's a question there. How then does this warmer ocean water, how does that affect Greenland? And then that could, if it does cause it to be unstable affects sea level rise. So ice sheets, sea level rise, sea ice, no sea level rise.
Gotcha. Okay. That's a really cool distinction to make and I understand now and it makes a ton of sense. Now that you mentioned it tell us a bit more about the, the graphs that you use. Is that, are those from the climate models they use or is it something different that you had? Okay, so those are the climate models.
Zack Labe: (24:40)
Well wait a bit of both. So how did I get involved with that is kind of the funniest story. So I think I mentioned already before, I do computer programming, so I don't go out in the field work and collect ice cores or Joe Snow samples. I sit behind a computer and I work with climate model data and I run climate models. I analyze them. So I'm at a computer all day and I'm looking at lots of data. So when a climate model runs, it's going to spit out millions, billions of numbers. Yeah, that's it there. It doesn't pronounced pretty grass. I make the grass, but it just prints out lots of numbers. And then as scientists we eat, analyze and interpret the numbers or create our own models to plug in the numbers and we create graphs, rewrite science papers, we publish them. And that's kind of our job.
Zack Labe: (25:36)
So a lot of my day is spent reading these science papers that people write and you know, I'm a specialist in the field and I'm having a hard time understanding people's graphs in these papers. They're just not clear. The labels aren't well, you know, labeled. The colors are terrible and I've always been interested in that. Science should be accessible for everyone and we should not be hiding the science work, particularly about climate change. Behind, you know, the ivory tower where there's paywall barriers for people. They can't even read the science papers. It's terrible. So I thought, okay, I wanted to see if I can try and make graphs better. That it was a simple, it started as simple as that is that I don't like the graphs I'm seeing. I can barely understand them. So how is anyone else supposed to understand them?
Zack Labe: (26:37)
Who wants to, who's interested in science? So I just started playing with my own data and testing different ideas of how do I visualize my own data differently. Mmm. And I started posting them on social media and Twitter is, Twitter is a unique, a social media platform compared I think to anything else in that there are, you can reach a huge audience. So on Facebook, if you're not in a Facebook page, you know, you're just reaching your like friend group. But on Twitter I, I'm kind of speaking to the world anybody can follow my Twitter if you would like. And I thought, well, I'm just going to post some graphs of I'm sending art. The climate change changes are happening really fast. A lot of people aren't aware of this, so I'm just going to make some graphs of these changes in the Arctic.
Zack Labe: (27:25)
And it's funny to look at the evolution of how I've made graphs. If you go back to the first ones I ever posted on Twitter kind of square because I think they're terrible. And I started posting them and people were like, wow. [inaudible] W and to me this was just kind of boring data. I mean, it's not boring, it's the wrong word, but it's just kind of really liked scientific details, data in pure, like all these people from everywhere interested in it. And I started then thinking, wow, you know, this is, this is really reaching a broad audience. People don't know that these things changes are happening in the arts. Mmm. So then I'm tweaking graphics and him, I'm playing, you know, round with what works, what doesn't, you know, a lot of times I'll take a dataset, let's say from a satellite and it shows CIS over 40 years how it's changed.
Zack Labe: (28:22)
And I will create three or four different types of graphs to use [inaudible] show that same data and I'll post them periodically and then I'll see which one gets the best feedback. And you know, what reaches most people. And then there's not always a clear answer. Some graphs people really like that or have lots of labels, lots of numbers, you know, I'm, you know, it's more what we think of as this typical science paper type graphic. And then there's others who like this idea of, we talked about like ed Hawkins, climate strikes where there are no axes, no numbers, no labels, it's just color. [inaudible] I think it's fascinating to see that there isn't just one answer, what type of graphic reaches the most people, but it's a combination of these types of different visuals. And I've been inspired by how many people are interested in what is the data, what is it showing and how do I look at the data myself.
Zack Labe: (29:23)
So when I create these graphics, I use computer programming languages and one called Python and I, I'll actually post all of my code that I used to make the graphics [inaudible] on the internet that anyone can access. So I'll have lots of people messaged me, Hey, can I have your code so I can be creative as, so if you ask me what I'm passionate about, it's accessibility to science in that everything should be open access data and science. And that's the only way. One of the only ways we're going to be able to tell the climate story is, is not hiding our analysis because unfortunately climate change like in my hometown was kind of a taboo topic due to skepticism about the data. So if we move forward and just break down this barrier of hiding the science work, I think it's going to go a long ways in improving climate communications.
You captured my next question because I wanted to bring up the stripes and how we should communicate, but you kind of said everything in that answer. Yeah. For those of you who don't know, and I'm going to link in the show notes, the stripes are were done by, by ed Hawkins and it's literally just some vertical colored bars with the evolution of temperature from 1890 to now. And it's pretty cool. And I actually, I'm curious if you were thinking about doing this SAC although I'm not sure if you could apply it on, on what you do, but basically he, he can go on, on this website that he created and you can download your stripes for your country, for your region and it really makes it a personal thing. It really makes it something that could go viral. And as you said, there's like no labels, there's no title on the stripes.
I posted them on my Facebook profiles, my cover photo and people that I've had like squabbles before about climate change. They said it's not real and it's a hoax and all that. They liked the photo because they obviously have no idea what it represents. And it's kind of a funny thing because some people know and if you know, you know, but if you don't, you just think of some really cool looking stripes, but then you kind of invest emotionally in it. Then when you find out you're like, Oh, okay. So that's what that represents. Right. Which I think is pretty interesting.
Zack Labe: (31:42)
Yeah. I've actually, I've thought about doing stripes for CIS. I guess it would go just blue to red. Pretty fine. My graphics usually have more labels. It's interesting. My most viral graphic, well I guess this was two years ago now.
This is your opinion tweet. This is the one that you have as a pen to it. No, we'll link it in the show notes.
Zack Labe: (32:11)
Was this graphic that actually when you look at it, it's pretty hard to understand in my opinion, it's pretty dense data and it was showing daily temperature in the Arctic for every single year for every month of the year. And it was then comparing what it was doing that day. Yeah, it was February, 2018 and we had this extreme, we call an art to keep waves. So essentially it was just, does warm air have moved into the Arctic in the middle of winter. It increased the temperature near the North pole to well above any other year on record or any other day on record during the winter time. So basically it was this, I had this red line that showed 2018 and it just spiked above everything else and it went all over the place. It just completely viral and it showed up at the most strangest places I have found on the internet.
Zack Labe: (33:13)
So it's fascinating to see what works because I look at that graphic and I still don't like it. If I had to pick my favorite graphics, I wish would go viral. It would not be that one. Even though it's really interesting climate event. The graphic itself is, it's hard to understand. So it's weird. It goes viral. I try to predict sometimes when I create a new graphic cow how it's going to be interpreted and the feedback and it's not always predictable. Yeah. Aye. You know, I said I use oftentimes the same data and just show it different ways. And I've found what people like [inaudible] one people often like animations [inaudible] quick animations, not long animations. We want to look at something in quickly. You see him move on. That's just kind of how, you know, we are on the internet nowadays. It's just quick look.
Zack Labe: (34:09)
And I think that's why tweets work because it's just a quick, then you can read and get it. The main idea and Groupon. So quick animations work. So a lot of my animations that are popular are just changes in CIS over 40 years and it plays in like 15 or less seconds. Some other graphics I've done, you know, or just going back to more like Anne Hawkins style is just letting colors tell the story. I have one graphic I really like where it's actually 42 lines on the graphic and in each line is showing CIS a daily CIS for one year from 1979 til present. And it's all these squiggly lines. So each squiggly is occurring because day to day it's really changing a lot do weather. But I have each line a different color going from, yeah, purple is dark, move to a white. So what you actually can see is that each line is going down and you can see this like gradient in color going from dark to light in your eyes without even really focusing on the squiggles and numbers.
Zack Labe: (35:21)
Just see the color change and then it's going down on the grass. I think easily interpretable is losing sea ice. So I think color, it's really important in how we tell climate data story is how I was really inspired actually. He's prior to the stripes was the climate spiral. Are you familiar with that? [inaudible] Climate spiral? So this is the graphic that really caught my interest. So essentially what it was, normally when, and I, I plot this a lot, we plot Earth's average global temperature and essentially it's just this one line that's increasing over time. And you know, every month it gets posted [inaudible] every year it gets posted. But what ed Hawkins did is he took this normally just a single line and he turned this spiral over. Yeah. Over time it's getting closer and closer to the center. And this, I remember I was actually on Twitter the moment he posted this climate spiral and I was like, wow, this is awesome and this is going to go really far, you know, in reaching.
Yeah. Because it's the one where it's also the one where he puts the, the 1.5 degree and two degree warming and it just kind of goes in circles and with every year it just keeps getting closer and closer and closer. And I think just based on what you said, that people like animations and they like animations that are that it happened pretty fast. I think. Yeah, short attention spans play a role, but I think it's also if it's faster, it kind of shows because a lot of people have this thing where they think that Oh one degree warming, it's not a big thing, you know, over a hundred years. But when you actually see how fast it evolves and at a proper scale, that's when it becomes shocking when you see how classical change. And the other thing is, and I guess you find this in your graphs as well, that it just keeps accelerating. Like it grows more and more from year to year. So the graph probably start at a certain pace and then it'll just speed up. That's really interesting. I wanted to ask you. Yeah, go for it. I just wanted to say that about this
Zack Labe: (37:44)
Viral that it went so far that it was featured in the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics summer Olympics. So it's just to show that, you know, a simple, it's pretty simple. Animation can go so far to reach one of the largest audience as possible being the opening ceremony of the Olympics. So I think that's the power of visualizing data in climate communications is really showcased there.
So I wanted to ask you kind of as the last last question before the last question. What's the, what's the outlook? Just briefly, you don't need to get into details cause it's probably not even the thing that you're looking at the most, but what's your outlook on, on warming over the next decades? Because I know the current estimates put us at somewhere three degrees warming by 2100 plus minus one degree. Do you have any take on that or any perspective?
Zack Labe: (38:43)
I think I like to always frame this type of question and talk about the present because the future is really hard to predict. I mean, we have, I work in climate models and projecting the future and it's hard, you know, if you think back, I like to frame it this way. If you were in like 50 years ago and you tried to predict what it was like in 2020, it'd be really darn hard. So I'm not saying we can't do it, but it's difficult. So I like to talk about the present and just say that, wow. I think a lot of people don't realize how climate change is affecting the present day. And I, I think people, you know, I always am biased about the Arctic and I think people don't realize it. There's a lots of people within the Arctic circle in that general geographic region that are affected by changes.
Zack Labe: (39:33)
Today. I'm lost. The CIS is affecting indigenous communities all across the Arctic circle. These are communities that rely on the ice for transportation, for hunting and fishing for just communication and their livelihoods and Mmm. It's affecting them today and that we should be aware that this is ongoing and we should consider it [inaudible] how dramatic these changes are already affecting communities and how it's going to get worse going in the future. If we don't, we don't become aware of what's going on today. And if we're not aware of what's happening now, it's going to be difficult to try to prevent further warming in that we should understand what are changes happening today, how is it affecting people, animals and ecosystems, and then think about, okay, we need to limit this the amount of this warming especially that's going to affect vulnerable communities all around the world. And I think, think that's the best way to kind of frame what does it look like going forward is, Hey, warming is affecting people today. It's going to get worse if we don't do anything and it's going to affect you in ways that weekend even. Maybe imagine.
I think that's a perfect way to frame it. I see a lot of these discussions on Twitter about the climate scenarios and how, Oh, it's actually not that bad. The world is not gonna end. Sure we might get to three degrees warming, but that doesn't mean that we're going to go extinct. But the way you framed it is I think the right way to frame it simply because there are people, as you said, that are affected today. I've been speaking to, I interviewed two African activists so far and I want to speak to many more and I don't think we realize that in America and in Europe where I live because we're not geographically, we're not in areas that would be affected to an extent where it actually takes something away from us. I mean, sure, I can see now that compared to 20 years ago when I was a small kid we used to have 'em in Romania, three months of snow from November to February and now it barely snows.
If it does this, maybe six for two days. So it's a clear change, but it's not something that has affected my livelihood or anything like that. As opposed to an example that you mentioned. Yeah. The examples that you mentioned, which funny enough, that's the Arctic. And then the areas in Africa are more around the tropics, which are exactly the two things that you described at the beginning of the episode, which I think that's why they're the most vulnerable and people can, yeah. People can actually see the impacts right now. That's very cool. I wanted to ask you the last thing, I don't know if you have an opinion on this, but I asked her to if every guests, so I'll go ahead and ask you. I try to get everyone's opinion on how, how the following sectors interact and what their level of importance is.
Some people like to rank them, some people just want to talk about the relationship between them. Feel free to do whatever, whatever you feel like or whatever your opinion is. So the four, the four sectors or categories that I would put is a politics and policy. So what governments can do to, and politicians to help us get out of this climate crisis. Second one would be society. So anything from activism to civil disobedience, individual lifestyle changes, basically anything that the society at large can do to influence how things they're not. The one is businesses. So businesses obviously are a big player. They should emit less, they should green, their entire supply chains, et cetera. And then the fourth one is scientific research and innovation, which is the work that you do. The work that people do to achieve breakthroughs in energy efficiency make make batteries more efficient, get us a nuclear power that is let's see, safer cheaper and faster to deploy, et cetera. What would you comment on these four, if you want to rank them one through four, if not just what is the, what are the interdependencies they see between them?
Zack Labe: (43:56)
Yeah, so I think my answer for that is, well, I'll always encourage, you know, people making personal changes and lifestyle changes and being more environmentally friendly and aware of climate change. I think what's important is people vote and it's as simple as that. People need to, if they are concerned about climate change and they should be, people need to vote for realistic climate change policies that are proposed by candidates. That is how we're going see, you know, we're going to solve this climate change situation is by institutional changes. And I'm not, I'm saying, you know, we need a realistic evidence-based policy to fight climate change and reduce our emissions and that's only going to be done by people being aware of it and voting for it. So to me that always ranks is what's most important for going forward into the futures voting. It's as simple as that. And then of course lifestyle changes are important, but in my view, and I'm not an expert on energy and emissions and things like that, but it's going to take bigger changes than just lifestyle. You know, people being more aware it's going to take bigger changes than that. [inaudible] Solve climate change going forward in the future in limit warming to something like the Paris treaty.
Awesome. Cool. That's a very cool perspective and yeah, I completely agree with, with both points. That's super cool. Is there anything else that you want to send us notices to people who are listening? We'll link to your, to your Twitter, and you can see all the beauty, all the beautiful graphs that you create.
Zack Labe: (45:49)
Just, I guess my last thing is talk about climate change. That's something we don't do. And I'm a climate scientist and I love, I love to talk about my work, but I find myself not often talking about climate change when I'm not with my colleagues, you know? And so I think that's something we don't do. We don't talk about climate change very much. And if we do, sometimes it's kind of in a joking way. Like let's say it's really hot one day and we'll be like, Oh, it's climate change today. You know, kind of that's, that's the limit. Did discussion. So talk about it, you know, talk about what you've heard on the news about how sea level rise is affecting areas in Miami, Florida, you know, talk about these extremes you're hearing and Mmm. Solutions, what politicians are proposing. So I think that's my main message is talk about climate change. Because I know I don't do it enough and I'm a climate scientist, so I think that's what we can all work on weaving in that into our conversations.
Awesome. Zach, thanks a lot. It was awesome having you on the show. Yeah, thank you. Can I go share again, thank you so much for listening to this. You've been wormed episode. I really hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Now you can find all the episodes on our website and it's www dot you've been warmed.com both in audio and written form so you can find the transcriptions on there. I'd love for you to reach out to me on Twitter and tell me what your favorite episode has been thus far or if you have any feedback on the episode they just listened to. My Twitter handle is at D R G Stephanie's school, so DRG coming from draggish, my first name and then Stephan ESCO, which is my last name. And finally, if you want to get notified when new episodes are out, subscribe to this podcast and consider dropping a review for us. If you enjoy the content that's all for now. See you soon.