Comic masterfully shows how climate has changed through time
Comic masterfully shows how climate has changed through time Randall Munroe’s xkcd comic tackles a range of popular science topics with an enlightening and humorous approach. (XKCD via Wikicommons/rottadana/iStock)
Comic masterfully shows how climate has changed through time
Lexile: 890L

Assign to Google Classroom

For those seeking to deny the realities of climate change, a popular counterpoint is simply: "The climate has changed before." 

It is a straightforward argument. And, it is difficult to refute. Thankfully, the amusing xkcd comic has a visualization showing just how misleading this statement can be.
For the inexperienced, xkcd is the brainchild of Randall Munroe. He is a cartoonist. He also is a physicist and former roboticist for NASA. Munroe has a knack for humorously and insightfully illustrating complex scientific topics. Munroe has dabbled across disciplines. He's gone from fun themes like time travel to foundational scientific concepts like DNA.
For this particular comic, xkcd tackled climate change. It looked back as far as the last glaciation. That is when Boston was buried under a mile of ice. Glaciers stretched towards Manhattan. Munroe traces changes in the Earth's climate up through modern times. Along the way, he tracks how the climate responds to melting ice sheets. He also looks at changes in the Earth's orbit and changing ocean circulations. They are all relative to the average temperature of the late 20th century.
Munroe aptly shows what the statement, "the climate has changed before," actually means. As you continue to scroll down and down and down, it becomes obvious that past climatic changes progress slowly and incrementally. The sudden final veer to the right at the bottom of the graphic, which represents human-caused climate change, is a stunning contrast to the otherwise minute changes.
NASA said last year that August 2016 was the warmest August ever recorded. That is over 136 years of recordkeeping. August 2016 actually wound up tied with July 2016 as the warmest month ever recorded. This is despite the fact that the seasonal temperature cycle typically peaks in July.
Last year, Brazil joined the Paris climate agreement, adding a dash of optimism to the foreboding data released by NASA. Home to the largest tropical rainforest on Earth, Brazil has the fourth-largest emissions of any country to sign the agreement. It trails behind only the U.S., China and India. The U.S. has since withdrawn from the Paris climate agreement. Only three countries have not signed on. Those are Syria, Nicaragua and now the United States.
With these things in mind, take a scroll through time and check out Munroe's comic.

Randall Munroe’s xkcd comic from Monday, September, 12, 2016.

Source URL:

Filed Under:  
Assigned 159 times
Why are cartoons an effective way to communicate?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • RachelB-pay
    10/09/2017 - 01:58 p.m.

    I think that illustrations for political view is humorously genius and a great idea for those looking for entertainment.

  • RachelB-pay
    10/09/2017 - 02:00 p.m.

    Oh, and to answer the question, cartoons are a great way to express visual content in maybe a humorous or genus kind of way.

  • ShawnF-pay
    10/09/2017 - 02:06 p.m.

    Its a very interesting article

  • RoodmilleA-pay
    10/09/2017 - 02:09 p.m.

    Cartoons communicate with you when you actually understand the lesson from that movie or episode. Cartoons certainly help kids such as babies and 2,3,4 year old's.

  • MyniahP-pay
    10/09/2017 - 02:10 p.m.

    I like it but it's I don't understand about it what is about what it mean can you help me

  • NicholasM-pay1
    10/09/2017 - 02:11 p.m.

    I found it interesting that one person could be a cartoonist, a physicist, and a roboticist for NASA. I also thought the cartoon was weird the first time, but i read it again and I get it.

  • KiaraA-pay
    10/09/2017 - 02:11 p.m.

    I didn't like it because I couldn't understand it to me it was confusing.

  • ayannaC-pay
    10/09/2017 - 02:12 p.m.

    I really liked it because I like to read comics and this just taught me the history of our the first humans to us.

  • DariannaM-pay
    10/09/2017 - 02:12 p.m.

    The story it was okay but half of the story i did not get the words or the diagram.

  • KalibH-pay
    10/09/2017 - 02:13 p.m.

    I found this interesting and it was about a cartoonist,physicist and a roboticist for NASA. The reason I found this interesting is because I like watching cartoons.

Take the Quiz Leave a comment