OMG: An Artist Flew over the Greenland Icesheet

In a recent article in Nature Climate ChangeSonja van Renssen describes various mediums through which visual artists and musicians represent climate change. She argues that illustrating climate change through art can ground it in our culture and open up new dialogues. She offers several examples, including Justin Brice Guariglia, who recently became the first artist in history to be involved in a NASA mission. He is in the midst of a five-year commitment to join NASA flights over Greenland from 2015 to 2020 in order to visually document changing climate.

Justin Brice Guariglia in front of his piece “APR 23, 2015 19:08:026 GMT.” (Source: Science Friday/Twitter).

Guariglia’s work is inspired by scientific data, but it is not featured directly in his art. His prints focus on the connection between humans and nature during the Anthropocene, the current geologic age of the Earth. As Renssen explains in her paper, the Anthropocene is the time period when “human activity is the dominant influence on climate and the environment.”

Guariglia’s enormous pieces dwarf the viewer. Jakobshavn I, a recent project, is an acrylic print on polystyrene that represents a glacier in Greenland. He prints his large-scale photographs on durable materials. Guariglia’s hope is that while the glaciers themselves may not last, his art will endure, according to Renssen.

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One of Guariglia’s pieces on display at TwoThirtyOne Projects in New York City (Source: Justin Brice Guariglia/Instagram).

Guariglia is a member of the Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) project, which researches the effects of ocean warming on Greenland’s glaciers. The project takes high resolution elevation measurements of these glaciers each year during the spring to measure annual glacier retreat. In addition, a second mission takes place each summer, during which 250 temperature and salinity probes measure the temperature and salinity of water in the Atlantic Ocean. These combined datasets will improve modeling of sea and ice interactions, helping to improve estimates of the contribution of Greenland’s ice to global sea level rise.

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A land art piece in Sante Fe. Participants covered in blue tarp in the dry riverbed are meant to illustrate how climate change affects people at local levels (Source: Don Usner and 350 Earth).

In an interview with GlacierHub, Josh Willis, the principal investigator for the OMG NASA mission, explained that he is “excited by the collaboration with Justin because it means we might be able to connect with people who have a hard time relating climate change to their own daily lives. That’s important to me because climate change is a big deal, and I think we’ve been slow to accept it.” Other scientific organizations like the National Science Foundation agree with NASA’s investment in blending climate change and art. The Antarctic Artists and Writers Program sponsors individuals in the humanities, including painters and photographers, to be inspired by and help document the heritage in Antarctica.

The trend in using art to portray the detrimental effects of climate change could be a creative alternative to communicating environmental risks. For example, alumni and faculty from the University of Miami recently used film, photography, and land art to illustrate climate change issues. Like Guariglia and Willis, this intersection of science and art could be uniquely effective in communicating these risks.

Roundup: Peruvian Climate, Tibetan Lakes, and Greenland’s Glaciers

Roundup: Peru, Tibet and Greenland


Project to Improve Climate Services in Peru

From Climate Services: “CLIMANDES is a pilot twinning project between the National Weather Services of Peru and Switzerland (SENAMHI and MeteoSwiss), developed within the Global Framework for Climate Services of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Split in two modules, CLIMANDES aims at improving education in meteorology and climatology in support of the WMO Regional Training Center in Peru, and introducing user-tailored climate services in two pilot regions in the Peruvian Andes… The efforts accomplished within CLIMANDES improved the quality of the climate services provided by SENAMHI.”

Read more about CLIMANDES here.

Landscape of the Peruvian Andes from behind walls of Machu Piccu (Source: Mariano Mantel/Creative Commons).


Monitoring Lake Levels on the Tibetan Plateau

From Journal of Hydrology: “Lakes on the Tibetan Plateau (TP) are of great interest due to their value as water resources but also as an important indicator of climate change. However, in situ data in this region are extremely scarce and only a few lakes have gauge measurements… In this study, Cryosat-2 SARIn mode data over the period 2010–2015 are used to investigate recent lake level variations… Lakes in the northern part of the TP experienced pronounced rising (avg. 0.37 ± 0.10 m/yr), while lakes in southern part were steady or decreasing even in glaciated basins with high precipitation… These results demonstrate that lakes on the TP are still rapidly changing under climate change, especially in northern part of the TP, but the driving factors are variable and more research is needed.”

Learn more about climate change on the Tibetan Plateau here.

Aerial view of lakes of the Tibetan Plateau (Source: Stuart Rankin/Creative Commons).


Data Portal to Study Greenland’s Ice Sheet

From Eos: “A new web-based data portal gives scientists access to more than 40 years of satellite imagery, providing seasonal to long-term insights into outflows from Greenland’s ice sheet… This portal harnesses more than 37,000 images from Landsat archives, dating back to the early 1970s, to track changes in outlet glaciers over time… Through analyzing data from this portal, we can see in great detail how several outlet glaciers are speeding up their treks to the sea. What’s more, any user can access the data to conduct their own studies of glacier behavior at Greenland’s coasts through time.”

Read more about Greenland’s retreating glaciers here:

Aerial view of coastal Greenland glacier (Source: Terry Feuerborn/Creative Commons).
Aerial view of a coastal Greenland glacier (Source: Terry Feuerborn/Creative Commons).