This Artist Has Turned Depressing Climate Data Into Stunning Art

Credit: Jill Pelto
Credit: Jill Pelto

At first glance you might miss that these beautiful paintings actually visualise climate science data.

Most climate scientists focus on complex graphs and excel sheets to communicate their research, and they can be overwhelming and difficult to get your head around if math is not your thing.

University of Maine student Jill Pelto, who describes herself as both a scientist and an artist, gets that. She decided to combine her skills to communicate climate science through art to reach a broader audience.

The Science

Pelto uses a wide range of sources when creating her masterpieces – her own research, scientific papers and also data from organisations such as NASA.

She even uses research from her own father, Mauri Pelto, who is a researcher and founder of the North Cascade Glacier Climate Project in the US state of Washington.

Pelto says she hopes that her artwork will ignite a passion in people to take action, and help prevent further environmental damage.

The Art

Pelto wants to reach a broad audience with her paintings – including those outside of the scientific community, who might not normally pay attention to data like this.

“Most of the population doesn’t pay attention to the scientific community and research,” she told Climate Central’s Brian Kahn “That’s the group I want to target.”

The paintings are effective, Pelto says, because they help people unfamiliar with climate change become a little bit more aware of the effect it is having on our planet.

So let’s check out some of Pelto’s work!

1. Melting Glaciers

Credit: Jill Pelto
Credit: Jill Pelto

In this paining, Pelto has incorporated the North Cascades’ annual glacier mass balance data from 1980-2014.

The glaciers are melting in the US national park less than three hours from Seattle. Pelto’s father has monitored the glacier retreat and related changes in the park for decades.

2. Ocean Acidification

Credit: Jill Pelto
Credit: Jill Pelto

Here, Pelto has cleverly used ocean pH data from 1998 to 2012.

Our planet’s oceans are becoming more acidic because some of the carbon from our atmosphere is dissolving into them. This creates carbonic acid in the process, which means a more acidic ocean.

More acidic oceans have a harmful effects on all marine life. Studies on clownfish, for example, show that more acidic water alters how their brains’ process information.

3. Increasing Forest Fire Activity


Credit: Jill Pelto
Credit: Jill Pelto

Hidden between the flames and the forest, this painting shows the increase in global average temperatures.

Large wildfires are happening more frequently and have been burning larger areas, in part due to the rising temperatures.

4. Habitat Degradation: Deforestation

Credit: Jill Pelto
Credit: Jill Pelto

In this painting, Pelto has used data that shows the decline in rainforest area from 1970 to 2010. Rainforest ecosystems are disappearing before our eyes, and with them, millions of beautiful species.

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