Look again at the image above. At first glance, you probably see floating icebergs, dark, turbulent seawater, and a rising and setting sun in the sky. If you look carefully, you’ll notice that this watercolor painting is a graph, with real data points. This piece is entitled “Climate Change Data,” and is constructed using global sea level rise data, global glacier mass loss data, and global temperature increase data. This is one of many of Jill Pelto’s stunning watercolor paintings that uses real scientific data as inspiration for a painting in order to better communicate what the data shows.
Pelto’s works really grabbed my attention because I’m a nerd for climate change and glaciology. In particular, this painting shows the decline of ice mass in glaciers worldwide.
This painting was created using glacier ice mass data from the North Cascades National Park, Washington, from 1980-2014. The glacier shrinks towards the right, reflecting the loss in ice mass since 1980. I love that as the glacier ice mass decreases, the colors change as well. This shows well what happens to glaciers as they melt: clean, blue ice disappears, revealing a mess of crumbled rock that was trapped inside the ice.
Jill Pelto is an artist and a scientist: she has degrees in both Earth Science and Studio Art. She strives to use her creative talent to communicate important environmental issues to the public. Many of her pieces trigger a strong emotional response from the viewer, such as this painting of frightened Arctic Foxes, depicting the loss of their habitat, arctic sea ice.
Habitat loss, sea level rise, temperature rise, increased fire activity, and glacial ice mass decrease are all important issues to tackle in the next century. Thanks to scientists and artists like Pelto who work hard to communicate the science, we understand many of these trends, and we have the power to make changes.
For more information on climate change research, cruise around the National Climate Assessment website for detailed descriptions of global as well as regional impacts. Also check out the IPCC’s (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) website for up-to-date information on climate change research. Finally, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a great section on climate. To see more of Jill Pelto’s works, check out her website, and follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Etsy.
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