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WIREs Clim Change
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Climate model simulation visualization from a visual studies perspective

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The article gives an overview on the visualization of climate model data simulation from a visual studies perspective. On one hand the question is raised of what it means culturally when global images are used to communicate scenarios of a changing climate future beyond the field of climate research itself. The product of this process is one of the most widespread ‘icons’ of climate change, the image of the blue planet that has turned red. On the other hand insights into how these visualizations are designed in the studio of a computer designer are given. The focus here is on the way in which specific visualization software shapes images of a changing global climate. The article takes as its starting point the perspective of visual and media studies, because images have become so crucial in communicating research results of climate science and convincing policy agents and the public. What is special about scientific images depicting climate change is that they have implicitly also become political images. As today various actors and recipient groups are making use of pictures depicting climate change, the article concerns climate science, media studies, computer visualization, cultural studies, and politics alike. WIREs Clim Change 2012, 3:185–193. doi: 10.1002/wcc.162

Figure 1.

Geographical patterns of warming. Surface temperature changes relative to the mean temperatures 2071–2100 minus 1961–1990 for the IPCC scenarios A1B and B1, DKRZ, 2006. (Reprinted with permission from Ref 14. Copyright 2006 MPI‐M)

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Figure 2.

Simulated temperature change for the IPCC Scenario A1B, DKRZ, 2006. (Reprinted with permission from Ref 15. Copyright 2007 DKRZ)

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Figure 3.

Spatial Resolution of Climate Model Simulation. In comparison: Grid size used for IPCC Assessment Reports AR4 (2007) and grid size planned for use for AR5 (2013). Smaller grid sizes allow regional projections.

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