Climate change is difficult to communicate; for those of us not yet directly impacted by climate change, it’s hard to “see”: we might swelter in a heat wave occasionally, or have to breathe smokey air for a few days or weeks from more intense forest fires, or watch floods from exceptional precipitation events on TV, but we can’t see the CO2 in the air. We have to trust the scientists who measure the impacts of climate change. Scientists have learned that to communicate climate change, visual information can help. A visualization of data is a powerful way to communicate what is happening in our world.

I’ve published three courses teaching programming students how to visualize climate data:

How to Visualize Data with JavaScript, which teaches how to use HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to visualize hottest months data downloaded from NOAA;

How to Visualize Data with D3, which teaches how to use JavaScript and the D3 library to visualize global average temperature data downloaded rom NASA;

and How to Visualize Data with R, which teaches how to use the R programming language and RStudio to visualize long term weather trends downloaded from the National Weather Service.

The resulting visualizations are not only fun to make, they are powerful indicators of the impacts of climate change on our world. There is no better way to experience the full impact of climate change data than working hands-on with climate data yourself, and seeing the results in visualizations you make yourself.

I decided to create mugs displaying the visualizations and have found these mugs to be great conversation starters. I live in a community with a “potluck culture”: we have frequent potlucks and often bring our own dishes and utensils with us to help reduce the cleanup and requirements for the host. I have had several conversations about climate change as a direct result of taking my mug to potluck events.

My favorite mug is the sea level rise + ocean temperature rise mug; but they are all pretty cool in my opinion.


If you’re not a programmer, but you want to start conversations about climate change with a mug, you can now order your very own mug online.