“Warming Stripes”: The Colors of Climate Change

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. That is the case with “Warming Stripes”, a creative visualization of climate data by Ed Hawkins, a scientist at the UK’s National Centre for Atmospheric Science.

Painting a picture of our changing climate, each stripe represents a single year from 1850 through the present. With an aesthetic similar to color field paintings by artists such as Barnett Newman or Mark Rothko, the images use only color to communicate meaning. Simplifying a complex issue for maximum impact with the general public, they avoid distracting details and focus on the big picture.

In “Warming Stripes for the Globe” (see below), it is plain to see the shift from blue (cooler) on the left to red (warmer) on the right. While there were a few warm years here and there in the past, the overall trend clearly shows temperatures are getting warmer. It is also important to note that the red has been getting darker (hotter) in recent years.

To see how the warming trend is playing out on a more regional or local level in different parts of the world, visit www.showyourstripes.info

“Warming Stripes for Globe, 1850-2018”. Credit: Ed Hawkins

Climate Communication: Art Helps Build Political Will for Change

The Conference on Communication and Environment (COCE) is taking place this week in Vancouver, Canada. Organized by the International Environmental Communication Association, the theme of this year’s event is “Waterlines: Confluence and Hope through Environmental Communication.”

Thrilled to be a part of it, I will be giving a presentation titled “The Power of Perception: Art, Climate, and the History of US Environmental Policy”. It looks at the role art has played in helping to build the political will behind several landmark environmental policies over the years and how it can help with climate change communication today.

From the Yosemite Land Grant of 1864 to the present, images have helped give the public, and the policy makers they elected, a new way to relate to and understand the issues of their time. In many cases, images mobilized public concern that helped drive legislation. The publication of photos of the Cuyahoga River fire of 1969 in Time Magazine, for example, helped spur the passage of the Clean Water Act and the creation of the EPA in the 1970s.

While environmental issues have changed over the years, so has technology and the way we relate to images. As such, this presentation also poses questions about what form of art will reach the most people and motivate them to speak up on climate change today.

Credit: IECA

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 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 global issue.

Marking World Environment Day on June 5, I will be discussing this idea in a presentation titled “Climate Communication: Using Art to Get Beyond the Numbers” at the UN Committee of New Canaan in New Canaan, CT. Blending the qualitative and quantitative, this talk reviews the results of a recent poll that measured the influence climate-art has on people’s opinions and highlights specific artworks that speak to the assorted impacts of this critical issue and its possible solutions.

As the famous scientist, Lord Kelvin, said, “When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it.” If that is true, then art has an important role to play in helping to broaden the public conversation on climate change.

Credit: Melissa Fleming/The Weather Gamut

Broto Conference 2019: Exploring Climate Science Through Art

Art and science are coming together in Provincetown, MA this weekend at the BrotoEco Conference. Now in its second year, the event focuses on brainstorming ideas and fostering collaborations across these seemingly divergent fields of study.

Named after the Portuguese word for “sprout”, this two-day event will include speakers, panels, and even a comedy show. I am thrilled to be part of the “Globalizing Art and Science” panel, where we will be discussing how art can help to scale up the global conversation on climate change.

For more information on the event, including a full list of speakers, please visit the Broto website.

Image Credit: Broto

“Encounter 2019”: An Art and Science Exhibition on Climate Change

Art and science are coming together in Durham, England to help expand the public conversation on climate change. In a group exhibition titled Encounter 2019 at Ustinov College at Durham University, artworks of various mediums along with scientific research posters explore the diverse impacts of this pressing issue.

Curated by Miyoko Yamashita McGregor, the overall theme of the show investigates the interaction between climate change, nature, and society. It features the work of over 30 contributors, including several scientists who presented aspects of their research as artwork. Two examples from this category are The Heat is Piling Up and A Story of Climate Change. Both are artful and engaging displays of scientific data.

The Heat is Piling Up, by Professor Glenn McGregor, Principal of Ustinov College, and Professor Camila Caiado, is a colorful column of stripes that shows how the average temperature in Durham has been increasing since record keeping began there in 1850. (Image far left)

A Story of Climate Change by Professor Dave Roberts is a digital x-ray image of a sediment core collected from the Hebridean Continental Shelf. It was taken as part of the NERC Britice-Chrono project, which is attempting to reconstruct a picture of the advance and retreat of the British-Irish Ice Sheet during the last glacial cycle. (Image near left).

Honored to be included in the exhibition, several pieces from my Under Glass series and my ongoing project, American Glaciers: Going, Going, Gone are also on display.

Encounter 2019 is the second of three Encounter exhibits planned by the University. It will be on view from March 2 – 14, 2019 at Ustinov College, Sheraton Park, Durham University, Durham DH1 4FL, UK.

Icebergs break off from Portage Glacier, AK. Credit: Melissa Fleming

Weather and Art: “Love of Winter”

Today is Valentine’s Day, a holiday when chocolate treats and images hearts abound. But for me, it is George Bellows’ Love of Winter that always comes to mind as we mark the mid-point of what is usually New York City’s snowiest month of the year.

A longtime personal favorite, this 1914 painting captures the spirit of those who embrace the season. Filled with the blurred movement of skaters on a frozen pond and accented with spots of bright color that pop against the white snow, it conveys the joy of being out in nature on a cold winter day.

While Bellows is better known for depicting scenes of boxing matches and urban life, art historians say he enjoyed the challenge of painting the varied lighting conditions produced by a snow-covered landscape. In fact, he wrote a letter to a friend in January 1914 complaining about the lack of snow in the New York City area that winter. He said, “There has been none of my favorite snow. I must paint the snow at least once a year.” Then, on February 13, a blizzard hit the region. The wintry conditions inspired him to create this timeless painting.

Love of Winter is part of the Friends of American Art Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago.

“Love of Winter”, 1914 by George Bellows. Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago

Speaking About Art, Climate, and Environmental Policy at AMS

The 99th Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society is taking place this week in Phoenix, Arizona. Its theme is “Understanding and Building Resilience to Extreme Events by Being Interdisciplinary, International, and Inclusive.”

Thrilled to be a part of it, I will be giving a presentation titled “The Power of Perception: Art, Climate, and the History of US Environmental Policy”. The talk looks at the role art has played in helping to build the political will behind several landmark environmental policies over the years and how it can help with climate change communication today.

From the Yosemite Land Grant of 1864 to the present, images have helped give the public, and the policy makers they elected, a new way to relate to and understand the issues of their time. In many cases, images mobilized public concern that helped drive legislation. The publication of photos of the Cuyahoga River fire of 1969 in Time Magazine, for example, helped spur the passage of the Clean Water Act and the creation of the EPA in the 1970s.

The talk also highlights the way technology has changed the way we relate to images and the role movies – the art of moving images – can play in reaching a wide and diverse audience.

Credit: AMS

Film Looks at Climate Change as a National Security Issue

Today is Veterans Day, a day to honor the men and women who have served in the armed forces. As such, it seems an appropriate time to highlight “The Age of Consequences” – a film that looks at climate change through the lens of national security and global stability.

Directed by Jared Scott, the film features a number of interviews with members of the military. While quick to point out that climate change is not the sole cause of any particular conflict, they discuss how it acts as a “threat multiplier” or “accelerant of instability”.

More specifically, the film shows how water and food shortages, drought, extreme weather, and sea-level rise have stressed social tensions to the point of armed conflict and/or mass migration in some of the more volatile regions of the world. Released in 2016, the war in Syria, the rise of ISIS, and the European refugee crisis are prominently featured.

Watch the trailer here:

Weather and Art: Rainworks

Rainy days can sometimes make people feel sad or depressed. This is what inspired artist Peregrine Church to create Rainworks – artwork activated by rain. His goal, he says, is “to give people a reason to smile on a rainy day”.

Based in Seattle, a city known for precipitation, he uses a super-hydrophobic spray to create images and sayings on concrete surfaces that are only visible when wet. As concrete gets wet, it gets darker. However, the areas covered in the waterproof coating stay dry and therefore lighter in color. This contrast allows the images and sayings to be visible to passersby.

Essentially street art, his first piece in 2014 was written on a city sidewalk and said “Stay Dry Out There”. He was soon joined his friend by Xack Fischer in creating Rainworks across the Emerald City.

In 2016, they started selling their specially formulated spray online. They also offer tutorials on their website to help people create their own Rainworks around the world. The spray according to the artists, is eco-friendly and biodegrades over the course of 2 to 4 months.

To date, more than 200 Rainworks have been created across five continents. You can find their locations (and add your own) on the Rainworks map.

A Rainwork in Yokohama, Japan. Image Credit: Rainworks Gallery

Storm King Art Center Exhibition Focuses on Climate Change

Art and science have come together to expand the public conversation on climate change  at Storm King Art Center in Orange County, NY. In an exhibition called Indicators: Artists on Climate Change, the work of seventeen artists and collectives address the diverse impacts of this critical issue.

Curated by Nora Lawrence, the exhibit is a mix of large-scale sculptures and installations spread out across the open air museum’s five-hundred acres as well as smaller pieces displayed in an indoor gallery.

Credit: Mary Mattingly/Storm King

Notable among the various projects is Mary Mattingly’s installation, Along the Lines of Displacement: A Tropical Food Forest. This stand of palm trees imported from Florida offers visitors a glimpse of what the landscape of upstate New York might look by the end of the century when the average temperature is expected to increase by 7.2°F (4°C) if global warming continues unabated.

Credit: Justin Brice Guarigila/Storm King

Another piece that stands out in Storm King’s bucolic setting is Justin Brice Guarigila’s We Are the Asteroid.  The orange colored, solar-powered LED highway message sign – the sort usually seen flashing information about dangerous situations – displays three-line ecological aphorisms by philosopher Timothy Morton. These include the piece’s moniker as well as things like “Danger: Anthropocentrism” and “Warning: Hurricane Human”.

Credit: Hara Woltz/Storm King

Embracing the science of climate change is Hara Woltz’s “Vital Signs”. In this interactive piece, a working weather station is encircled  by nine cylinders (a reference to the shape of ice-core tubes) that present the idea of albedo and melting sea ice. The top of each cylinder gets darker as a viewer moves around the circle. More specifically, the lighter area decreases by 13% per cylinder reflecting the predicted decrease in Arctic sea ice per decade relative to the 1981-2010 average. The cylinders also progressively get taller, referencing sea level rise. Data from the weather station is displayed in real time on Storm King’s website.

Other exhibiting artists include David Brooks, Dear Climate, Mark Dion, Ellie Ga, Allison Janae Hamilton, Jenny Kendler, Maya Lin, Alan Michelson, Mike Nelson, Steve Rowell, Gabriela Salazar, Rebecca Smith, Tavares Strachan, and Meg Webster.

The exhibit is on view through November 11, 2018.