Why weather? It’s been said, “Climate is what we expect. Weather is what we get.” We are obsessed with the weather. It is a powerful, shared daily experience, offering us an immediate talking point with which to engage our fellow citizens.
We talk about the weather all the time, to both strangers and family, at formal settings or in the street. There isn’t one central narrative about weather (unless complaining about the rain counts). Yet when we talk about the climate, there is a dominant narrative about impending destruction, costs, environmental degradation, droughts, floods, fires and carbon counts. It’s enough to get you down.
One problem may be that many public dialogues about climate change evoke a sense of guilt or powerlessness. Campaigns warn of strange weather to come, urging virtuous individual action to prevent communal consequences. When developing STRANGE WEATHER we wanted to explore a different aspect of climate change. We wanted to effect a subtle shift, so that the discussion could become more interesting and incentivising, rather than daunting and paralysing.
STRANGE WEATHER engages you in a conversation rather than preaching at you. It involves work that propels you to consider your own relationship with changing weather and encourages thoughtful reflection as opposed to guilt or powerlessness.
Exhibits like The Climate Bureau, Forecast from the Future, HazMat Suits for Children and SurvivaBall invite the viewer to participate in speculation about the future climate, allowing us to imagine our own relationship with changing weather for better or worse. Other pieces such as Talking About The Weather and Climate Council pose questions and phrases in ways we don’t usually use to talk about weather.
By engaging in weather and climate in a playful, provocative way, we hope to leapfrog over the current polarised debate. These exhibits contrast against projects like the Irish Centre for High-End Computing’s 100 Year Climate Model of Earth which starkly presents a variety of climate models based on predicted scenarios in the future—your potential children and grandchildren’s climate playing out before you in a matter of seconds.
And then there is the personal. We often experience a personal connection to weather—the sunny day of a happy childhood memory, the cataclysmic snowstorm that meant someone couldn’t make it home in time for Christmas. Internet Poems about #Weather, Talking about the Weather and Archive of Old and New Events dig in to how weather has shaped our past, present, and (perhaps) future—from how we speak to how we party.
Yet looking ahead can be tricky. Even when we can predict it, weather may wreak havoc or pleasantly surprise us. Our ability to accurately predict the weather in the short term has grown at roughly a day for every decade since the 1970s, meaning that at around eight days out, it’s more or less a coin toss. Weather Betting, developed in partnership with Met Éireann, will measure the wisdom of the crowd versus professional forecasters at Met Éireann. Every Science Gallery exhibition is conceived with space for your contribution, and exhibits like A People’s Archive of Sinking and Melting, Archive of Old and New Events and the Climate Council await your input.
Distinctly absent from most discussions of human-caused changes in weather is talk of who it will help—because after all, there will be winners and losers in climate change. One scary thing is that the ‘winners’ are suspiciously quiet at the moment. Who Owns The Arctic looks at a possible future of profiteering and corporate conspiracy of exploitation in the Arctic region. The exhibits, speculative fictions, and confounding propositions of STRANGE WEATHER can help us consider climate change and changing weather in a new light: who is going to take advantage of climate chaos and how will strange weather benefit me?
For STRANGE WEATHER, Science Gallery was hugely fortunate to work with lead curators CoClimate who, in collaboration with Gerald Fleming from Met Éireann, brought together a thoughtful, grownup exhibition on a sometimes tricky and evocative theme. We are hugely grateful to them for their contribution, ideas and inspiration.
Equally, STRANGE WEATHER has brought together partners and supporters who have recognized the opportunities this unique theme brings to engage audiences in conversations about climate change. These include Science Foundation Ireland, Environmental Protection Agency and Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland. We would also like to thank the Faculty of Engineering, Mathematics and Science here in Trinity College Dublin who have partnered with us on the development of STRANGE WEATHER and connected many leading researchers in the university into the development of the exhibition, events and workshop programmes. Our partners provide invaluable support in terms of ideas, people and resources and we are hugely grateful for their support.
It’s clear that weather is getting stranger, and if the time for debate isn’t over, it’s certainly time to frankly address what changing weather means and the tough choices we need to make. One temptation is to continue to debate and kick the can down the road, treating the changing global weather solely as an academic problem ‘that needs further study’ and reeling from one catastrophic strange weather event to another. This seems to do us a great injustice and forgets our ability to change, adapt and innovate—whatever strange weather brings it will certainly also bring with it new opportunities.