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Climate Change and Crowd-Sourced Updates

Climate Change and Crowd-Sourced Updates

Dr. Furat Al-Murani

Image Credits: Wesleyan University and Columbia University

I am writing this sat in front of a roaring fire, in a cosy room in Abisko, Lapland. The purpose of heading to the Arctic was to catch a glimpse of the Aurora, play with huskies, and find a legitimate way of getting more use out of my impulse purchase Antarctic down jacket.

From the train journey up, the countryside looked as I imagined it should, snow covered mountains and rolling tundra. Even on arrival the scenery was as expected. It was only when we asked about skiing that we were told there wasn’t enough snow. Mid November in the Arctic circle remember. We were then told it had been like this for the last few years.
I was then struck with a thought: We only know the stories from our back garden. When we know something inside-out, we can spot subtle differences. Outsiders can’t. To me there was nothing unusual about the snow here, I was excited just to see some. But in a globalised world where travel is ubiquitous, how can we know when something is awry? For every drought in California that we hear about, there must be 1000s of examples from across the world that don’t make the news. This is what scares me. How much don’t we know about?

In scientific research anomalies are to be expected. Locals here may just put the recent lack of snow down to just that. And it may well be. But when the frequency of anomalies increase, they can no longer be ignored as outliers, and a new line of best fit must be drawn. This is exactly what is happening with the climate, however only pockets of people notice their anomaly, and as such we struggle to see the global trend.

What if it were possible to map all of these anomalies? Just anecdotally, and crowd-sourced. People could sign up and post an update every now and again, and gradually we would build to a full picture. Would we start to start to see climate change for what it really is, something that is noticeably affecting everybody, rather than limited to a few isolated incidents.

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