This morning, Google unveiled its “Zeitgeist 2012″ report, a look at what the world searched for over the past 12 months. (Well, over the past 11-and-a-third months, anyway.) The No. 1 trending thing people searched for was Whitney Houston, which: OK. But when it came to news events, the most captivating thing was Hurricane Sandy.

Which got us thinking: Did those searches for Sandy prompt more searches on climate change? And the answer is: yes, but not many.

Here’s what search traffic for “Hurricane Sandy” looked like over the course of the year, across the globe. (In all graphs, 100 represents the peak search volume.)


And, here, searches for “climate change” and “global warming.”

See that tiny little tick up at the end of October? Yeah, that’s correlated to Sandy.

The searches for “Hurricane Sandy” were, predictably, centered on the East Coast.


Interestingly, searches for “climate change” were centered in Australia …

… and those for “global warming” in Southeast Asia.

Australia, of course, was battered by floods, as was the Philippines. The only places in the United States that saw much traffic for either term were in the Northeast.

We also wondered if the drought caused any splash on Google. And it did, exactly when you’d have expected.


No doubt thanks to the size of the state’s cities, the searches were centered in Texas.

Google is as close as we can get to gauging the public’s thinking. What we learn, then, is that extreme weather events don’t prompt an immediate, online connection to climate change; or, at least, no connection to the desire to learn more about the issue.

And, if you’re wondering who’s searching for Grist?


Not nearly enough people.