UCI Doctoral Student is Helping People Visualize Climate Change and its Impact on the Entire Planet

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Watching the ice shrink before his eyes…

The watcher of the Arctic Sea is none other than UCI doctoral student Zack Labe, a second year Ph.D. student in the Earth Systems Science Program.  Zack is making waves among scientists and non-scientists alike by disbursing accessible charts and graphs to illustrate the shrinking ice caps.  With a simple push of a button, Zack receives the latest satellite data on Arctic sea ice on his computer, which he then plots on a custom graph and tweets to his 8,000 Twitter followers.   

Now more than ever, it is critical for scientists to provide undeniable, easy-to-comprehend visual data that can educate the general public, and Zack is doing just that with the help of social media.  He is sharing his findings with images and graphs that show proof of what is actually happening to our planet.

Zack posted an image on Twitter last year that shows the Arctic is getting warmer in a way that is out of sync with natural variability, causing a heated debate between believers and non-believers.   “Even if climate change were to be accepted by the majority of the public, there is limited understanding about the way this will affect weather patterns on the rest of the planet,” says Zack. 

The dramatic changes happening in the Arctic, which he makes sure to emphasize are clearly linked to the emission of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, are the indicators of systemic alterations that are still mostly unclear. Pinpointing exactly what will be the result of this warmer weather and disseminating this information to the general public is Zack’s primary goal. 

“There is a history at UCI of not only discovering problematic issues in the ecosystem, but also of attempting to solve them, as was demonstrated by founding professor F. Sherwood Rowland in his work formulating the ban on fluorocarbons through the Montreal Accord after years of opposition from industry leaders,” says Zack.

Outside of tracking climate change, Zack enjoys mini adventures including going on day trips across the Northeast to places like an 8,000 foot miniature village from the 1930’s; taking a train that goes through an old Pennsylvania coal mine; and visiting one of the most “haunted” abandoned prisons in the United States. 

He also loves to be outdoors, exploring, meeting people, and trying new things. This kind of inquisitive personality seems right for a person who is studying the planet, an ecosystem that is the manifestation of an interconnected mesh of human activity, and the rhythms of nature and weather.


Zachary Labe