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Posted at 11:40 AM ET, 02/18/2011

A new view of weather and climate

By Andrew Freedman

"Approaching Storm," by John Armstrong. From the "Forecast: Communicating Weather and Climate" exhibit.

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.

"The Melt," an anorak by Cecilia Bitz and Scott Shuldt.

"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.

By Andrew Freedman  | February 18, 2011; 11:40 AM ET
Categories:  Climate Change, Freedman, Latest, News & Notes  
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Hmmm...wonder how Mr. Q will respond to this one!

Posted by: Bombo47jea | February 18, 2011 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Great post. My idea of an artistic contribution would be condo advertisements for "Keewatin Korners" and "McKenzie Meadows" -- the two districts of the part of Canada formerly known as the NW Territories, which have gone back to the First Nations.

Let me also get something off my chest. I do think the climate is changing, it's manmade, and that we'll have to make expensive public policy decisions well ahead of the impact. However, there is an implicit idea that early to mid 20th century is the "correct" climate for us to have. Climate changes wildly over eons, and none is more correct than the other. The only reason this climate is "correct" is that people expect it to stay the same. So billions of people who live on or near the coasts have made a bet that the climate won't change suddenly. People consume too much stuff and don't recycle or (in the U.S., consume less), which leads to fewer forests that can absorb CO2 and prevent the oceans acidifying from overdosing on CO2.

I don't expect things to change any more than I expect Whole Paycheck to abandon open refrigerators or give me a discount for taking the metro (they validate parking in Chevy Chase). I would appreciate this "correct" climate sensibility from those who know better, however.

Posted by: kperl | February 18, 2011 1:21 PM | Report abuse

kperl, that's pretty funny. I once watched a woman at Target open the freezer door for literally five minutes while talking on the phone and pondering what to pick out inside, so maybe your favorite store has the right idea. For climate artwork, I like the idea of painting weather. Cloud paintings could be used determine if there are trends. Other art like this can document some of the joys of the next Little Ice Age or Warming Period, whichever happens.

Posted by: eric654 | February 18, 2011 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Here's a video I did with Scott & Cecilia:

Posted by: TheGreenMiles | February 18, 2011 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Strange how Mr. Q hasn't commented yet...

Posted by: BobMiller2 | February 18, 2011 7:02 PM | Report abuse

Yes, I'm waiting for Q's comments myself. He is correct most of the time.

Posted by: MMCarhelp | February 18, 2011 10:56 PM | Report abuse

There may be some warming taking place, but there is little evidence that any catastrophe is about to occur anytime soon.

There is little indication of the dreaded sea level rise and sea ice on a worldwise scale is not shrinking to any meaningful extent. The severity and number of catastrophic weather events shows no signficant rise.

The two worst landfalling US hurricanes were 42 and 76 years ago. By far the worst tornado 86 years ago. The worst drought and heatwave in the eastern half of the US took place 84 years ago, deadliest flood, 122 years ago.

The temperature record for Columbus, Ohio shows 7% of all daily high temperature records were set duing the last 10 years. That is about exactly what you would expect with a 140 year record.

Des Moines has not set a daily high temperature record during July in 55 years (since 1955), Waterloo, IA has only set one daily July high temperature record in 70 years, since 1940.

Chicago's record for highest average temperature for any month goes back to July 1955. For Minneapolis, July 1936

DC has not set any records for highest temperature ever recorded in that month, during any of the months from June thru October, since 1941.

In 1881, a temperature of 108 was recorded at the Naval Observatory in DC. That temperature was recorded in September, no less. That 108 temperature has never been reached at any DC weather station during any month ever since.

The list goes on and on. For all the scare talk, there is very little beef.

The global warming debate is not a battle between dumb and smart or between ignorant and informed. It is based on facts vs. false claims and there is little indication in the real world that the alarmists are winning that battle.

The alarmists have been trying to produce Grade B horror film scenarios that have little basis in fact. They have good reason to keep this propaganda mill going because they stand to make a good living from all of this frightening talk.

Posted by: frontieradjust | February 19, 2011 3:52 AM | Report abuse

those records, and lack of records, you cite sound extremely cherry-picked. remember, the theory is GLOBAL warming. "des moines"?! columbus ohio?! really? it's better to look at the trends of measurements from 1000s of sites. of course the problem then, for your point, is that warming indeed would show up.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 19, 2011 11:16 AM | Report abuse


The station sites were not cherry picked. They represent major US stations with long term records.

There was not one station thrown out because I didn't like the results.

Go to the NWS sites on line. Pick your own sites, do similar studies and analyse them objectively.

What will jump out at you is that there is very little going on now that is outside the range of what has happened before. There could be some gradual warming trend taking place, but it is hardly the horror show that you might think.

If you want to see a real horror show, looks at the heat records set in the 1930's over most of the US.

Posted by: frontieradjust | February 19, 2011 1:38 PM | Report abuse

those are the very same sites you cited in a post from earlier this winter. of course they're cherry-picked. des moines, columbus, waterloo, chicago, minneapolis, dc. ok. that's 6 cities.

here are 6 cites that set high temp records just LAST YEAR: tuscaloosa, los angeles, san juan (puerto rico), peoria, cleveland and topeka. so what? records are being set all the time.

the link below shows the TREND of the ratio of heat to cold records being set is rising. these records are all just for the US. remember also, it's GLOBAL warming (not just des moines warming).

(note that that chart doesn't even show data from record-hot 2010.)

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 20, 2011 1:42 PM | Report abuse


You are right, all but Chicago and Columbus were picked from an earlier study. I was curious a year later to see if other places were fitting the same trend.

I'm not trying to chose sides, I'm trying to see what the truth is. When I picked two more stations at random, they again showed nothing unusual is happening.

It is the alarmists that are settling up Hollywood disaster scenarios and frightening little children, so I believe the burder is on them to provide overwhelming tangible evidence to back their contention.

When you look at mutliple towns in the heartland of America and realize the weather in reality is doing nothing unusual, their case to the average person is simply not convincing. That is probably why their cause is failing.

Walter, do me a favor. Look up the temperature records during the summers on 1930, 1934 and 1936 for St. Louis, Kansas City and whatever third city you want to choose. Count up the 100 degree days for those three summers. Then count up the 100 degree days for the same cities over the last 20 years. After doing so, tell me if you are still convienced that there has been meaningful global warming.

Posted by: frontieradjust | February 20, 2011 8:46 PM | Report abuse

looking up that data wouldn't prove anything. my whole point is that you need to look at 100s and 1000s of sites all across the US and the GLOBE - not just a few cites in the middle america. and sure the 30's were incredibly hot during the dust bowl years. so that doesn't mean this warming that is happening now, as evidenced by the TREND of measurement from many sites, isn't caused by humans.

rather than deny the recent man-made warming, a more sustainable argument for the "let's ignore it" folks is the idea that the warming is no big deal - i.e., that it's not "catastrophic" etc...

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 20, 2011 11:15 PM | Report abuse

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