Entry type: Single project
Publishing organisation: Stuttgarter Zeitung
Organisation size: Small
Publication date: 2022-05-18
Authors: Jan Georg Plavec, Simon Koenigsdorff, Christian Frommeld
Jan Georg Plavec is lead editor for data journalism, specializing in local data journalism since 2012. Simon Koenigsdorff is a data journalism trainee with particular expertise in R and environmental journalism. Christian Frommeld is a web developer who regularly helps create interactive formats.
Klimazentrale ist a local data journalism project which shows the local impact of climate change. Using historical data, we contrast today’s weather with the realities of our parents and grandparents – showing how unnormal weather and climate have become even in Central Europe. The data is embedded in daily automated analyses for more than 500 communities. We also use the data for weekly data analyses, a live widget on our website, print infographics etc. The project is not temporarily limited, therefore impacting future reporting and implementing data and climate journalism in the print & online channels of our regional newspaper.
Data and climate journalism have become regularly visible, applying a local take on a topic that is usually reported in global frames. We therefore hope to raise more awareness among our readers for the impact of climate chante on a local level.
As a direct consequence of our reporting on summer heat waves and what to do against it, a “Hitzebus” was implemented by the city council. On hot days, it drives through Stuttgart and provides homeless and poor people with drinking water, cooling devices and advice how to avoid the city heat.
The project also sparked a discussion inside our editorial board which led to a different policy for the images we use within articles about summer heat. It is no longer only happy children in the water but also people suffering from the heat.
We presented Klimazentrale at several conferences as a best practice for local newsrooms and data journalists.
Data come mainly, but not exclusively, from Germany’s meteorogical service DWD. We added more data sources from the city council and the regional enviromental agency, making our data base a lot broader which enabled us to report in much more detail.
The data are being processed automatically via a Docker Container and published as Datawrapper diagrams. The automated analyses for more than 500 communities are rule-based and exported as XML directly into our online CMS.
Context about the project:
2022 was the warmest year since weather recording has started. The impact of climate change becomes visible on a local level. Yet, climate change reporting often focuses on global frames – rightly so, because it is a global issue, but for local audiences it can be hard to connect a global phenomenon with the local weather. Add to this that over the years, people get used to hotter summers and winters without snow.
Our project aims to compare today’s weather with the realities of today’s parents and grandparents – different realities obviously. By demonstrating how much different the local weather was one or two generations ago, we hope to raise awareness for the impact of climate change.
We believe that climate change has to be reported on a local or even hyperlocal level and ideally on the basis of evidence and data. Yet for small teams, that can be hard – it was hard for us as well, particularly because we had to add extra data sources to get a rich and detailed data base which enables us to really report on a hyperlocal level.
We are only two journalists and one web developer. We believe that the combination of an enriched data base, automated processing and textual / infographic analysis of the data as well as the presentation in print and online channels combined with the (hyper)local approach makes Klimazentrale an outstanding data project coming from a very small team at a local newspaper.
What can other journalists learn from this project?
There is (hyper)local data on climate change out there, and it is worth the effort to open and access them. The data provide a rich source for automated reporting as well as data analyses. Local reporting on climate change can have an impact, in our case the implementation of a “Hitzebus” (“heat bus”) that supports homeless people in the city during heat waves – which unfortunately become more and more frequent.