Survey Says… Art Can Help Broaden the Public Conversation on Climate Change

The Tri-State Weather Conference is this weekend and I will be presenting the results of a survey I organized this summer on a poster titled “Art Can Help Broaden the Public Conversation on Climate Change.”

Building on my talk, “The Art and Science of Climate Change”, I was curious to know if climate-art was influencing people’s opinions. Therefore, moving from the qualitative to the quantitative, I conducted an online poll of 300 people from across the US using Survey Monkey. Participants were asked comparison questions about the influence of traditional graphs vs. artistic interpretations of climate change. The graphs were sourced from the IPCC’s fifth assessment report and the artwork came from both photojournalists and conceptual artists.

When compared to a graph, the different styles of art received different reactions. On average, however, a significant number of the participants (34%) related more to the issues of climate change via art than through traditional charts and graphs. Overall, 64% of participants said art had changed the way they thought about a subject in the past.

These results show art to be a powerful tool of communication that helps to broaden the public conversation on climate change. They also highlight the fact that a variety of visual outreach methods are needed to reach the entire population on this critical issue that affects us all in one way or another.


The survey shows art can help broaden the public conversation on climate change. Credit: The Weather Gamut.

The Creative Climate Awards – An Art Exhibition on Climate Change

The Human Impacts Institute is bringing art and science together in an effort to expand public understanding of climate change. In a group exhibition called The Creative Climate Awards, artworks of various mediums explore the challenges of this pressing issue.

This annual event, according to organizers, “uses the arts and creativity to share knowledge, broaden the climate conversation, educate, and incite action.” The show features artists from around the world, including: Ellen Alt, Ed Ambrose, Carolina Arevalo, Vikram Arora, Julie Bahn, Danielle Baudrand, Anna Borie, Laura Brodie, Kenneth Burris, Yon Cho, Alejandra Corral de la Serna, Michael Fischerkeller, Melissa Fleming, Rachel Frank, Kathryn Frund, Shelley Haven, Martin Kalanda, Kaiser Kamal, Julian Lorber, Heather McMordie, Dominique Paul, Peim, Fariba Rahnavard, Clark Rendall, Alexandros Simopoulos, Britta Stephen, Shira Toren, Lars Vilhelmsen, Joyce Ellen Weinstein, and Ana Gabriela Ynestrillas.

The exhibit runs from September 27th to October 27th at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO), 1 East 42nd Street, NYC. The opening reception is scheduled for Tuesday, September 27th from 6PM to 8PM. This event is free and open to the public.

For a full list of events during the course of the exhibition, please click here.

"Energy: 300 Million Years" from the Under Glass series by Melissa Fleming. Credit: Melissa Fleming

“Energy: 300 Million Years” from the Under Glass series by Melissa Fleming. Credit: Melissa Fleming

Celebrating Fifth Blogiversary

It is hard to believe, but today marks the five-year anniversary of The Weather Gamut.

Initially begun as a way to both deepen and share my knowledge about weather and climate change, this blog has allowed me to expand on my interests and concerns in ways that I never thought possible. Building on the topics discussed here, I have developed and delivered a number of public talks and made several media appearances. Blending all this with the art side of my life, I recently conducted a national polI about art and climate communication. I will be presenting the results of this survey at the upcoming Tri-State Weather Conference.

Also, through writing this blog, I have met many wonderful people working in this fascinating field. I am grateful for all their support and encouragement.

Overall, it has been a fun and educational five years! Looking ahead, I am excited to continue this rewarding journey.

As always, thank you for reading!


Panel Discussion: “Climate Change: Art, Design, and Activism”

As part of Climate Week NYC, the Climate Reality Leaders of New York are hosting a panel discussion, “Climate Change: Art, Design, and Activism”, on September 22nd, at Civic Hall.

Offering observations and opinions from their own unique perspectives, the panelists will discuss how art and design can inspire activism, awareness, and solutions to the realities of climate change. Tara DePorte, Founder and Executive Director of the Human Impacts Institute, will moderate the panel.

Panelists include:

This event, co-produced by Simone Rothman and Harriet Shugarman (Founder and Executive Director of Climate Mama)  is free and open to the public. Please note that seats are limited and registration is required. Doors open at 5PM. Program begins at 5:45PM.

Civic Hall
156 Fifth Ave, 2nd Floor
(Between 20th and 21st Streets)
New York, NY 10010

Autumnal Equinox 2016

Today is the Autumnal Equinox, the first day of fall in the northern hemisphere. The new season officially begins at 14:21 UTC, which is 10:21 AM Eastern Daylight Time.

The astronomical seasons are a product of the tilt of the Earth’s axis – a 23.5° angle – and the movement of the planet around the sun. During the autumn months, the Earth’s axis is tilted neither toward nor away from the sun. This position distributes the sun’s energy equally between the northern and southern hemispheres.

Since the summer solstice in June, the arc of the sun’s apparent daily passage across our sky has been moving southward and daylight hours have been decreasing. Today, it crossed the equator and we have approximately equal hours of day and night. The word “equinox” is derived from Latin and means “equal night”.

With the sun sitting lower in the sky and daylight hours continuing to shorten, Autumn is a season of falling temperatures. According to NOAA, the average high temperature in most US cities drops about 10°F between September and October.

Earth’s solstices and equinoxes. Image Credit: NASA

Earth’s solstices and equinoxes. Image Credit: NASA

Warmest August and Warmest Summer On Record for Planet Earth

Our global temperature continued its upward trend last month with August 2016 not only marking the warmest August on record but also closing out the warmest meteorological summer ever recorded for the entire planet.

According to a report by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Earth’s combined average temperature for August – over both land and sea surfaces – was 61.77°F, which is 1.66°F above the 20th-century average. It surpassed the previous record set just last year by 0.09°F.

August 2016 also marked the 16th month in a row to break a monthly global temperature record – the longest such streak on NOAA’s books. Moreover, it was the 380th consecutive month with a temperature above its long-term norm. That means the last time any month posted a below average reading was December 1984.

The three-month period of June, July, and August – known as the meteorological summer in the northern hemisphere – was also a record breaker. NOAA reports that Earth’s average temperature for the season was 1.60°F above the 20th-century average.  That is 0.07°F above the previous record that was set in 2015.

While heat dominated most of the planet from June to August, some places were particularly warm, including Asia and Africa where continent-wide temperature records were broken. Here in the contiguous US, the summer of 2016 tied with 2006 as our fifth warmest on record. While every state in the lower-48 experienced above average temperatures, California, Connecticut, and Rhode Island were each record warm. Alaska posted its second warmest summer on record.

These soaring temperatures are attributed to the long-term trend of human-caused climate change. Whereas El Niño gave global temperatures a boost earlier in the year, it dissipated in early June. ENSO-neutral conditions have since prevailed across the tropical Pacific Ocean.

Year to date, the first eight months of 2016 were the warmest of any year on record. This increases the likelihood that 2016 will surpass 2015 as the Earth’s warmest year ever recorded. Global temperature records date back to 1880.

 Credit: NOAA

Credit: NOAA

Why Hurricanes Hit the East Coast and Not the West Coast of the US

It is mid-September and hurricane season is in full swing in both the Atlantic and Pacific. With these mighty oceans bordering both sides of the US, have you ever wondered why hurricanes only make landfall on the east coast?

The answer is two-fold, involving the direction of prevailing winds in the tropics and the difference in water temperature in the two basins.

Hurricanes develop at tropical and sub-tropical latitudes in both the Atlantic and Pacific, where water temperatures are at least 80°F. This part of the globe is also where the Trade Winds prevail, flowing from east to west.

In the Atlantic, storms traveling west-northwest often run into the east coast or Gulf Coast of the US. There, the warm waters of the Gulf Stream that flow along the eastern seaboard sustain them as they move northward.

In the Pacific, storms tend to be pushed out to sea by the Trade Winds.  Any hurricanes that manage to move north quickly dissipate when they encounter the cooler waters of the California current that flows southward along the west coast from Canada.

Only two tropical systems have ever made landfall on the west coast of the US. A hurricane slammed San Diego, CA in 1858 and a tropical storm battered Long Beach, CA in 1939. That said, hurricanes and tropical storms generally have indirect impacts on the western states. When a named storm makes it as far north as Baja California, remnants of it can travel across the border and cause heavy rain and flooding in parts of the American southwest.


All North Atlantic and Eastern North Pacific hurricanes, through 2013. Credit: NOAA/NWS

Weather Gamut Writer Talks About Unseasonable Heat in NYC on WUTV

It was both an honor and a thrill to be asked back to The Weather Channel’s WUTV show tonight for my 6th appearance!  As a personal weather station owner based in New York City, we discussed the unseasonable heat and humidity that has been baking – or should I say steaming – the Big Apple the past few days.

The show, which dives into the science behind different weather events, airs weeknights from 6 to 8 PM EST on The Weather Channel.

Weather Gamut writer, Melissa Fleming, talks with Mike Bettes on WUTV. September 9, 2016. Credit: TWC and Melissa Fleming

Weather Gamut writer, Melissa Fleming, talks with Mike Bettes on WUTV. September 9, 2016. Credit: TWC and Melissa Fleming.

Climate Change is Changing Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park (GNP) in western Montana is on the verge of losing its namesake features to climate change. Given this fact, I made a point to visit the park this summer to see what remains of its famous glaciers before they completely melt away.

According to the National Park Service, the area that is now GNP was home to 150 glaciers at the end of the Little Ice Age in 1850. Today, because of rising global temperatures, only 25 remain and most are mere vestiges of what they once were. Looking ahead, if the current rate of melting continues, all of the park’s glaciers are expected to disappear by 2030, if not sooner.

Glaciers are dynamic entities that respond to changes in temperature and precipitation. They advance when more snow accumulates in the winter than melts in the summer. When this process is reversed, they retreat. Sadly, the new norm in GNP includes warmer summers and a decreasing snowpack.

The USGS, which monitors the park’s glaciers, reports that the mean annual temperature in GNP has increased 1.33°C (2.4°F) since 1900. That is nearly twice the global average. The park also now sees 16 fewer days each year with below-freezing temperatures. These warmer conditions mean that more precipitation is falling as rain rather than snow.

Beyond aesthetic changes to the landscape, the shrinking glaciers and reduced snow pack mean less melt water for the region and therefore warmer and drier summers. This, in turn, affects soil moisture and the proliferation of wildfires. It also has serious ramifications on the availability of fresh water for drinking and irrigation.

In arid regions, like the American West, people depend on mountain run-off from melting glaciers and winter snow packs for the majority of their fresh water. In western Montana, according to the NPS, snowmelt accounts for 60-80% of the annual freshwater supply. As temperatures rise and the stores of this precious resource dwindle, competition for it is expected to increase.

But, glaciers are not the only things changing in GNP. As the atmosphere heats up and the ice retreats, the park’s various ecosystems are also being reshaped. Sub-alpine trees are moving upslope replacing alpine meadows, for example. This changing distribution of vegetation affects the type of wildlife the park can support. While some animals can adapt and move upslope with their habitat, others, like the pika – a small furry relative of the rabbit who lives at high elevations and cannot survive temperatures above 75°F – already live at the end of their range and have no place to go.

The NPS has no plans to change the name of Glacier National Park.

"Repeat Photography", a USGS project, documents the changes to GNP's glaciers over the years. Credit: USGS/NPS

Images of Sperry Glacier from “Repeat Photography”, a USGS project, that documents the changes to GNP’s glaciers over the years. Credit: USGS/NPS

Hurricane Hermine Batters Florida’s Gulf Coast

Hurricane Hermine, the eighth named storm and fourth hurricane of the 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season, made landfall in the Big Bend region of Florida early Friday morning. It slammed the Sunshine state’s west coast from Tampa to Tallahassee with heavy rain and winds measured up to 80 mph.

The category-1 hurricane generated a 9-foot storm surge in Cedar Key and dumped more than 22 inches of rain in parts of Pinellas County, flooding many communities. The storm also downed trees and knocked out power to over 250,000 people. Only one storm related death was reported.

Traveling across Florida, Hermine was downgraded to a tropical storm. It is now in the Atlantic moving north along the eastern seaboard. Impacts such as powerful winds, heavy rain, coastal flooding, and dangerous rip currents are expected to be felt from Georgia to Connecticut this holiday weekend.

Hermine was the first hurricane to make landfall in Florida in eleven years.

Hurricane Hermine makes landfall in Florida on September 2, 2016. Credit: NOAA

Hurricane Hermine makes landfall in Florida on September 2, 2016. Credit: NOAA