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Probable Futures

Bringing climate science to culture

Map of extreme drought on Probable Futures

Making Climate Science Accessible

Probable Futures is a climate science initiative that aims to increase the chances that our future is good. With experts from the arts, finance, technology, and the renowned Woodwell Climate Research Center, Probable Futures set out to create a global online tool to help people better understand and prepare for our futures in different warming scenarios.

Postlight’s goal was clear: In partnership with a large team of collaborators, conceive, design, and build a global online utility that vividly communicates the consequences of climate warming through interactive maps and a sensory storytelling experience.

Probable Futures logo
Climate change temperatures
People looking at charts

Building for a Global Audience

We defined a platform that would make it easy to see the consequences of climate change via a variety of engaging, interactive maps, content modules, and charts. It had to look as good as the world’s best editorial platforms, and provide the same flexibility to publish and share information.

Probable Futures screenshot
Grand Canyon
Image: Jonathan Zander, Wikimedia Commons

The platform required a strong editorial foundation and maps that always felt connected. We leveraged trusted tooling across editorial and geospatial disciplines and proposed a strategy for creating:

  • Online maps that are interoperable and configurable with other online systems
  • A content management system (CMS) that deeply integrates maps and editorial content
  • A platform that grows with the Probable Futures initiative as it evolves
Probable Futures mobile screenshots

Start Small and Stay Flexible

First, we built a prototype to get familiar with the tooling and application uses for climate map data. Once we understood how the datasets fit together and might be used across industries and disciplines, we architected a modern, flexible software foundation using PostgreSQL, PostGIS, and React.

With our collaborators at Moth Design, we set out to design a focused editorial reading experience. We focused on designing a space where people could slow down, take their time, and truly internalize the foundational concepts that underpin the workings of the Earth.

In the maps application, we designed a space to help visitors imagine what the world will be like — on a local and global scale — at different warming scenarios. We kept map complexity to a bare minimum and invited visitors of all backgrounds and knowledge levels to explore with focus.

Tablet screenshots: Number of freezing days
Map of average daytime temperature

A Global Utility to Plan for – and choose Between – Our Futures

The result is a beautiful, scalable platform for Probable Futures. With an intuitive editor experience and powerful geospatial APIs, the core platform is ready to grow into an ecosystem of connected tools for understanding the physical world, coming changes, and what they mean for all of us.

Map of days above 32°C in Australia