Amusing Monday: Wearing data to show changes in climate

Ed Hawkins, a professor of climate science who brought us climate spirals (see Water Ways, May 28, 2016) has inspired a line of products with his “warming stripes” that connect global temperature to a straight-line visual pattern.

Climate change tie and related items: Zazzle

Neckties, pendants, coffee mugs and more are based on Hawkins’ striped design that helps people visualize how the Earth has warmed since the late 1800s. Each stripe represents a range of temperatures, from shades of blue in cooler years to shades of red in warmer years.

The tie on the model (shown here on Zazzle) presents the average temperatures for the entire globe, while the second image is Hawkins’ graphic for the contiguous United States. Hawkins, a professor at the University of Reading in England, is always looking for new ways to convey climate change to average people.

On the first day of summer in June, many television meteorologists across the country wore neckties bearing the warming stripes, according to a story by Jason Samenow in the Washington Post’s blog Capital Weather Gang.

Lines show annual temperatures for the contiguous U.S. // Graphic: Ed Hawkins

“It struck me as an opportunity to communicate climate change in the simplest way possible,” said Jeff Berardelli, a meteorologist at the CBS affiliate in Palm Beach, Fla., who organized the event. Check out #MetsUnite on Twitter.

Meanwhile, the Climate Museum, an organization based in New York, is using the design on a black T-shirt to celebrate its third year of existence and to raise money to create a permanent home for the museum. The museum will “cultivate a shared identity for a new and inspiring climate citizenship,” according to its vision statement.

The creative approach of using weather data and observations to create works of art apparently goes back many years. One of my favorite ideas comes from Lea Redmond of Leafcutter Designs, who knitted a scarf by observing the color of the sky each day and adding a row using that color. The result is a beautiful work of art with a natural connection to the real world. Check out the video above and another video by Lea that provides more details.

One can also use the daily temperature to create rows in an afghan or blanket. Sharon MacDermaid of Grand Rapids, Mich., said it took her between 30 and 45 minutes a day to crochet one row. That’s around 200 hours or more to complete the entire blanket showing daily temperatures for an entire year. The second video shows the blanket during a television interview with Sharon. Instructions and video tutorials on creating these kinds of afghans are available on The Crochet Crowd.

Another example is a “globally warm scarf” as described by Joan Sheldon of Sheldon Fiber Designs. Joan is a marine scientist who infuses her discussions about yarn and crochet techniques with references to scientific data. As she describes on her webpage:

“One of the things I learned during this project was that, even though I was already familiar with this dataset scientifically, I experienced it in a new and more personal way while creating my scarf: putting a yarn color away because I wouldn’t need it again, or getting out a new color that I hadn’t needed before, really drove home the changes as I worked through the timeline.

“I enjoyed sharing this more emotional connection to the science when I exhibited my scarf in November 2015 at the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation meeting during an experimental session called ‘Artistic Pathways to Scientific Understanding.’ We had a wonderful time learning about how other researchers integrate their scientific and artistic interests, and it was interesting to see how many different ways a scientific study could be presented without losing its core messages.”

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