Art and Climate Change: “In Human Time”

The inaugural exhibition of The Climate Museum in New York City has brought art and science together in an effort to expand public understanding of climate change. 

“In Human Time” explores the intersections of polar ice, timescales, and human perception. Installed at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at the Parsons School of Design (the museum is looking for a permanent home), the exhibit is divided into two parts. The first of which (December 20 – January 15) displayed Zaria Forman’s large-scale image, Whale Bay, Antarctica No. 4. Depicting calved glacial ice grounded in shallow water, it could easily be mistaken for a photograph captured in an instant. However, a time-lapse video alongside the piece reveals it to be a pastel drawing created by hand over many weeks.

Ice Cores. Credit: Peggy Weil

The second part of the exhibition (January 19 – February 11) focuses on the Arctic and highlight’s Peggy Weil’s 88 Cores. This slow-paced video is essentially one continuous pan that takes the viewer nearly two miles down into the Greenland ice sheet and more than 100,000 years back in time. Photographs of ice cores as well as artifacts and media that offer a science context to the Arctic ice accompany the artwork.

“The Climate Museum’s mission,” according to its website, “ is to employ the sciences, art, and design to inspire dialogue and innovation that address the challenges of climate change, moving solutions to the center of our shared public life and catalyzing broad community engagement.”

The exhibition is on view through February 11, 2018, at :
The Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries
Sheila C. Johnson Design Center
Parsons School of Design
66 Fifth Avenue, New York City

For more information, visit http://climatemuseum.org/home

“Whale Bay, Antarctica No. 4″, Pastel on Paper, 84″x144”. Credit: Zaria Forman.

2017: Third Warmest Year on Record for Planet and the Warmest Year Without an El Niño

It is official, 2017 was the third warmest year ever recorded on this planet. Only 2015 and 2016 were warmer.

According to a report by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Earth’s combined average temperature for the year – over both land and sea surfaces – was 58.51°F. That is a staggering 1.51°F above the 20th-century average.

2017 also marked the 41st consecutive year with a global temperature above its long-term norm. That means the last time any year posted a below average reading was 1976.

While heat dominated the planet last year, some places were particularly warm. Here in the contiguous US, it was our third warmest year on record.

The exceptional warmth of 2017 is largely attributed to the long-term trend of human-caused climate change. While El Niño conditions helped influence record heat in the past, 2017 was the warmest year on record without an El Niño being present in the Pacific. In fact, ENSO neutral conditions prevailed for most of the year and La Niña – the cool counterpart of El Niño – developed in the autumn.

Looking at the bigger picture, nine of the ten warmest years on record have occurred since the beginning of the 21st century. Three of those years – 2014, 2015, and 2016 – were back-to-back record breakers. As greenhouse gases – the main drivers of global warming – continue to spew into the atmosphere, temperatures will continue to rise and records will likely continue to fall.

Global temperature records date back to 1880.

2017 was the third warmest year on record for our planet. Credit: NOAA

Credit: NOAA

2017: Third Warmest Year on Record in US

2017 was the third-warmest year ever recorded in the continental United States. Only 2012 and 2016 were warmer.

The average annual temperature of the lower 48 states, according to a report by NOAA’s National Centers of Environmental Information, was 54.6°F. That is 2.6°F above the 20th-century average. 2017 also marked the 21st consecutive year that the annual average temperature for the contiguous US was above its long-term norm. That means the last time the US had a normal to below normal annual temperature was 1996.

From coast to coast, for the third year in a row, every state posted an above-average annual temperature. Five states – Arizona, Georgia, New Mexico, North Carolina, and South Carolina – had their warmest year on record. This was despite the unusually cold conditions that dominated the eastern part of the country in December.

The year was also notable for its unusual number of weather and climate disasters that each totaled more than $1 billion in damages. In all, sixteen such events collectively caused $306 billion in direct costs – a new US record. Sadly, they also claimed the lives of at least 362 people across the country. These incidents included drought, wildfire, floods, severe storms, and three major landfalling hurricanes.

The exceptional warmth of 2017 was independent of El Niño. In fact, ENSO neutral conditions prevailed for most of the year and La Niña – the cool counterpart of El Niño – developed in the autumn.

Weather records for the contiguous United States date back to 1895.

Credit: NOAA

Credit: NOAA

NYC Sub-Freezing Cold Streak: Third Longest on Record

The extended cold wave that has been gripping New York City earned a place in the record books as it came to an end on Tuesday when the temperature climbed above freezing for the first time since Christmas.

Brutally cold temperatures dominated the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018 in NYC. Credit: Melissa Fleming

In all, the city experienced fourteen consecutive days with temperatures below 32°F. That, according to the NWS, is the third longest sub-freezing cold streak ever recorded in Central Park. The coldest day came on January 6, when the mercury only made it to 13°F. The wind chill made it feel even colder.

These unusually frigid conditions were the result of a deep dip in the jet stream and a lobe of the polar vortex reaching southward over much of the eastern US. While a brief warm-up is expected over the next few days, it is still January so keep those hats and gloves handy.

Credit: NWS

Climate Communication: Using Art to Get Beyond the Numbers

Climate change is a complex scientific subject with a plethora of data-rich reports that detail its causation and diverse impacts. However, as important as all that information is, not everyone responds well to facts and figures or charts and graphs. That is why art, which taps into human emotion and tells visual stories, can help create new pathways to understanding this vital issue that affects us all.

On Tuesday, January 9, I will be giving a presentation titled “Climate Communication: Using Art to Get Beyond the Numbers” at the 98th Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society in Austin, Texas. The theme of this year’s conference is “Transforming Communication in the Weather, Water, and Climate Enterprise“.

Building on my previous interdisciplinary art-science projects, this talk will review the results of a recent national survey that shows how art can help to broaden the public conversation on climate change. It will also highlight specific artworks that speak to the assorted impacts of this critical issue and its possible solutions.

Credit: AMS

Massive Winter Storm Sets New Daily Snowfall Record in NYC

A massive winter storm – known by some as Grayson – slammed the eastern US on Thursday. Producing heavy snow and strong winds, its impact was felt from northern Florida to New England.

Here in NYC, the storm dumped 9.8 inches of snow in Central Park, setting a new daily snowfall record for the date. The previous record of 4 inches was in place since 1988. The city, on average, gets 7 inches of snow for the entire month of January.

Developing as a classic nor’easter, this storm became an over-achiever as it rapidly intensified over the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. It underwent a process called Bombogenesis, the threshold for which is a drop in pressure of 24mb in 24 hours. This storm dropped 59mb in 24 hours, producing very powerful winds. At JFK airport, wind gusts up to 55mph were reported.

The snow left behind by this storm will not be going anywhere anytime soon. A re-enforcing shot of cold arctic air moved in behind the storm and dangerously cold temperatures are expected to remain in place through the weekend. Bundle up!

The first big winter storm of 2018 brought NYC 9.8 inches of snow. Credit: Melissa Fleming

Fun Facts about Snow

If you enjoy winter and a good snow day, here are some fun facts about snow to ponder when the flakes fall:

  • All snowflakes, regardless of shape, have six sides.
  • Snow crystals are translucent, not white. The white color we see is caused by sunlight that is reflected off the crystals.
  • Most snowflakes fall at a speed of two to five feet per second. That is roughly the same speed as a person walking casually.

Enjoy the snow!

Snowflakes come in a variety of shapes, but all have six sides or points. Credit: Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley

Weather and Art: Charles Burchfield at the Montclair Art Museum

The weather was a muse for artist Charles Burchfield (1893-1967) and is the subject of a special exhibition of his work at the Montclair Art Museum in New Jersey.

“Charles E. Burchfield: Weather Event” displays more than forty paintings and sketches of specific atmospheric phenomena as seen by the artist in the Buffalo, NY area during the early part of the 20th century. Co-curated by Dr. Stephen Vermette, a climatologist at SUNY Buffalo and Tullis Johnson, the archive manager at the university’s Burchfield Penney Art Center, the show is a thoughtful blend of art and science.

Grouped by themes, such as the sky, cloudscapes, changing seasons, heat waves, and moon halos, the wall text for each piece highlights the artistic processes involved and explains the meteorology portrayed in the different scenes. Some of the artworks are also accompanied by a phone number that viewers can call on their cell phones to listen to a simulated weather forecast for the specific date and location depicted in the image.

Burchfield was a visionary artist for his time and was given the first solo exhibition ever offered at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City in 1930. He was also an imaginative interpreter of nature. To convey the non-visible aspects of the natural world, he developed a vocabulary of various signs and symbols. These included chevrons in the sky to show wind and undulating lines across the landscape to express heat. He was truly captivated by the workings of the atmosphere and in 1943 said: “To me, the artist, interested chiefly in weather—all weather is beautiful, and full of powerful motion.”

The show is on view at the Montclair Art Museum through January 7, 2018.

“Sunburst”, 1929-31 by Charles Burchfield. Credit: Burchfield Penney Art Center.

Perihelion 2018: The Earth is Closest to the Sun Today

The Earth reached its Perihelion today at 5:34 UTC, which is 12:34 AM Eastern Standard Time. This is the point in the planet’s orbit where it comes closest to the Sun.

This annual event is due to the elliptical shape of the Earth’s orbit and the off-centered position of the Sun inside that path. The exact date of the Perihelion differs from year to year, but it’s usually in early January – winter in the northern hemisphere. The Earth will be furthest from the Sun in July.

While the planet’s distance from the Sun is not responsible for the seasons, it does influence their length. As a function of gravity, the closer the planet is to the Sun, the faster it moves. Today, the Earth is 147.1 million kilometers (91.4 million miles) away from the Sun. That is approximately 5 million kilometers (3 million miles) closer than it will be in early July. This position allows the planet to speed up by about one-kilometer per second. As a result, winter in the northern hemisphere is about five days shorter than summer.

The word, perihelion, is Greek for “near sun”.

Earth is closest to the Sun during the northern hemisphere’s winter. Credit: TimeandDate.com

2017 Ties for 10th Warmest Year on Record in NYC

New York City experienced some noteworthy weather in 2017, especially the swings between record cold and record heat. However, the warmth won out in the end. The city’s average temperature for the year in Central Park was 56.3°F, which is 1.3°F above normal. That means 2017 tied 2001 for NYC’s tenth warmest year on record!

At the beginning of the year, the city experienced its sixth warmest winter ever recorded, including a record warm February. The temperature on February 24 hit 70°F – marking the first time the city has seen that type of heat in February in twenty years.

Spring was also unusually mild. It included the city’s second warmest April and second warmest Easter on record. It also produced an early heat wave in May.

The summer brought the city a number of oppressively hot and humid days, including thirteen days with temperatures in the 90s. The hottest day came on July 20 when the mercury soared to 94°F. When humidity was factored in, the heat index or real feel temperature was in the triple digits.

Autumn ranked as the city’s fourth warmest on record. It was highlighted by a record warm October.

The end of 2017, on the other hand, was marked by an extended arctic blast that produced the coldest readings of the year. On December 28, the high temperature only made it to 18°F and on December 31 the low was a bone-chilling 9°F – the second coldest New Year’s Eve in NYC history.

Precipitation for the year was somewhat erratic. Despite a few heavy rain events, including some that broke daily rainfall records such as the 3.02 inches that fell on May 5, the city was mostly dry. In fact, only four months of 2017 produced average to above average rainfall. Overall, NYC received 45.04 inches of rain in Central Park for the entire year. That is 4.9 inches below normal. This dearth of rain, according to the US Drought Monitor, caused abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions across the city for part of the year.

Snowfall, despite the warm winter, was abundant. During the year’s few arctic outbreaks, enough moisture was also in place to produce snow. For the calendar year as a whole, the city accumulated 34.7 inches of snow, which is 8.9 inches above average.

Records for the Central Park Climate Station date back to 1873.

Credit: The Weather Gamut

Credit: The Weather Gamut