A new view of weather and climate
It's well known by now that in the U.S., there is a gaping chasm between the mainstream scientific view of global climate change (it's happening, is likely largely manmade, and is a serious problem), and the views of about half of all Americans (it may or may not be happening, is probably natural, and is not something to be very worried about). Traditional media reports don't seem to be closing that gap, and communications experts in the social sciences have been proposing new avenues through which to convey climate change stories - ones that appeal to our emotional side rather than just our analytical side.
To that end, I recently toured a unique art show in Seattle, which opened during the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society (AMS). The show, presented by the AMS and EcoArts Connections, offers new ways to engage with weather and climate information. It features not only your typical depictions of weather, such as cloud photographs, but also extremely imaginative representations of weather and climate phenomena, including a homemade and functional weather station comprised of blown glass and mixed media.
In an inspired twist, the show's organizers, including AMS staff, facilitated collaborations between Seattle-area artists and atmospheric scientists. One such collaboration, between Cecilia Bitz, an associate professor in the atmospheric sciences department at the University of Washington, and artist Scott Shuldt, resulted in an anorak - a weather-resistant jacket, which fits Bitz's frame - that is decorated with beadwork representations of her studies of Arctic climate change. The anorak includes the downward trendline of September Arctic sea ice extent (she refers to this as the Arctic's "pulse"), and various equations governing processes in the far north.
"For me," Shuldt says, "the inspiration isn't about the climate, it's about the scientist." For her part, Bitz says the anorak impresses her students, and captures the complexity of Arctic climate change. It's rather heavy to wear, though, she says.
The show provides a great example of how the arts can be an avenue through which to view climate and weather, one that should be utilized more frequently. As the show's organizers state: "The art here needn't convince us that it is "right." It will have accomplished something important if it helps us to think and feel about weather and climate in new ways."
"Forecast: Communicating Weather and Climate" runs through April 9 at the Washington State Convention Center. So if you find yourself in that neck of the woods, I highly recommend you check it out.
| February 18, 2011; 11:40 AM ET
Categories: Climate Change, Freedman, Latest, News & Notes
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