Visualization of Milankovitch climate-change theory

Hans J. Wolters, John A. Shaffer, Randall Cerveny, R. E. Barnhill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


A need exists to express and visualize complex theories of climate change, particularly to nonspecialists. Policy decisions are now being debated and implemented that involve speculation on climate changes over thousands of years, such as those changes associated with the astronomical climate theory advanced by Yugoslavian astronomer Milutin Milankovitch. However, past methods for visualizing the insolation changes linked to the changes in Earth's orbital characteristics (eccentricity, obliquity, and precession) are not easily interpretable by non-specialists and the general public. A new algorithm that displays Quaternary radiation variations in a multi-color format on a sphere provides an efficient alternative to existing graphical methods. The visual image of a color-coded sphere, as opposed to a line plot, invokes an immediate conceptual relationship between insolation and global climatic changes. We found this new method is particularly beneficial for explaining variations in Milankovitch orbital theory to interested professionals and lay people as well as college students in introductory and advanced courses of climate change. As popular discussion and debate continue to focus on climate-change research, improved methods of communication must be developed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-12
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Geoscience Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1996


  • Education - computer assisted
  • Education - geoscience
  • Surficial geology - Quaternary geology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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