Turbulent World: An Artwork Indicating the Impact of Climate Change


Session Title:

  • Climate Change

Presentation Title:

  • Turbulent World: An Artwork Indicating the Impact of Climate Change



  • (Short paper)

    Keywords: Climate change, art-science, software art

    This paper describes an artwork created in response to a question about the role of the artist in communicating climate change issues. The artwork, titled Turbulent World, incorporates turbulence and surprise as a means to visualize the potential instability of our culture and the environment due to climatic changes indicated by increased worldwide temperatures. The artwork makes use of a custom fluid engine that can represent any amount of turbulence and energy. A dataset encoding a simulation of rising surface-air temperatures over the next century is mapped to the turbulence system; and the visualization is updated as the months and years flow by, based on the projected temperatures at different areas of the world. That is, the increased turbulence of the system causes a representation of a map of the world to become distorted in different ways. A secondary view is overlaid, showing numerical data and providing a more dispassionate display of the inexorable increase in world temperature. Keywords Climate change, art-science, software art.


    Turbulent World is a time-based artwork that displays an animated atlas that changes in response to the increased deviation in world temperature over the next century. The changes are represented by visual eddies, vortices, and quakes that distort the original map. Additionally, the projected temperatures are themselves shown across the world, increasing or decreasing in size to indicate the severity of the change. The data used in the artwork was generated by a sophisticated climate model that predicts the monthly variation in surface air temperature across different regions of the world through the end of the century (Delworth et al. 2006). The various datasets that are output from this model are available at the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

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