When you think about calendars, scientists are pretty much the last thing that comes to mind – models, animals, cars, or landscapes usually fill that role. But just for moment picture a climate scientist in a slinky red dress and high heels, brandishing a fire extinguisher as she tries in vain to save the last remaining trees from a forest fire. Isn’t that a memorable image (see August)?
ALESSANDRA GIANNINI (FEBRUARY): Giannini shows that droughts in the Sahel can be explained by changes in sea-surface temperatures. Location: Sahara Desert.
“We thought, how often does the public get to interact with scientists? We [all] talk to doctors a lot,” he added. “We go to the doctor very frequently and we have an idea of … what they look like and what they do. But how many people know what a geologist does?”
JASON SMERDON (MARCH): Smerdon assesses how climate models perform on timescales of decades to centuries to provide projections of future global warming. Location: Inside the matrix.
The makers of the Columbia University’s new “Climate Models” calendar thought so, and I can only say I agree with them. The idea came from Francesco Fiondella and Rebecca Fowler, communications officers with Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, respectively.
TUFA DINKU (APRIL): Dinku works to improve the availability and use of climate and weather data in Africa, and studies relationships between climate, agriculture and disease there. Location: Ethiopia.
“It started originally as a joke,” said Fiondella. “But when we told the joke to more and more people, we were like wait, this could be a really fun way to engage the public.”
LISA GODDARD (MAY): Goddard tries to improve the reliability of climate model predictions for the next few decades so they are useful to national policy makers. Location: Puclaro Reservoir in Chile.
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But it was a pretty expensive joke, as it requried $11.000 in funding, which were covered by a grant from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation and then Kickstarter. So all that remained was the convince the climate scientists to actually pose for the calendar – which as it turns out, was pretty easy.
ANTHONY BARNSTON (JUNE): Barnston determines how the El Niño–Southern Oscillation pattern in the Pacific Ocean affects droughts and floods. Location: International Research Institute for Climate and Society.
“They were totally game to get in front of the cameras and do some goofy poses and more serious ones,” Fowler said. “And they worked really hard with us on the text and the content inside the calendar, refining it over and over again to get a concise message about what it is they do.”
RICHARD SEAGER (JULY): Seager examines how past, present and future changes in ocean temperatures affect precipitation over land. Location: Dusty farm field in the American West.
This actually showed a pretty significant problems: it’s often very hard for scientists to communicate – even when they are eager to do so.
KÁTIA FERNANDES (AUGUST): Fernandes created the first climate model to predict fire activity in the western Amazon, based on droughts and Atlantic Ocean temperatures. Location: A charred Amazon rainforest.
“It showed us that scientists are in fact excited about communicating their work,” Fowler said. “They often get a bad rap for being poor communicators, but I think that’s not always the case. Sometimes they just don’t have the means to do so.
MICHELA BIASUTTI (SEPTEMBER): Biasutti studies the factors that control the location and intensity of rainfall in the tropics. Location: West Africa.
DOROTHY PETEET (OCTOBER): Peteet looks at sediment cores and plant remains to determine the magnitude and rapidity of past climate shifts. Location: Marsh in New York State.
BRENDAN BUCKLEY (NOVEMBER): Buckley measures the rings of living and dead trees to re-create the temperature histories of specific regions around the world. Location: Temple ruins in Angkor, Cambodia.
NICOLAS VIGUAD (DECEMBER): Viguad distills global climate models to provide local projections of atmospheric circulation that can impact rainfall patterns in semiarid environments. Location: Sandstorm in North Africa.