• 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. Yet when we talk about climate change the sense of guilt or powerlessness is enough to kill the conversation.

    By engaging both weather and climate in a playful, provocative way, we hope to leapfrog over current polarised public debates. STRANGE WEATHER propels you to forecast your own fate on a changing planet with an uncertain future.

    By bringing together works by artists, designers, scientists, meteorologists and engineers STRANGE WEATHER asks questions such as: Should human culture be reshaped to fit strange weather or should we reshape weather to fit our strange culture? Who is going to take advantage of climate chaos and how will strange weather benefit me? How will you choose to work, celebrate, live and die when weather gets weird? 

  • LYNN SCARFF & IAN BRUNSWICK

    SCIENCE GALLERY

    We wanted to effect a subtle shift, so that the...
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    LYNN SCARFF & IAN BRUNSWICK

    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.

  • CATHRINE KRAMER & ZACKERY C. DENFELD

    Curators of STRANGE WEATHER and co-founders of CoClimate

    Being human means remembering the past and making...
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    CATHRINE KRAMER & ZACKERY C. DENFELD

    BEING HUMAN

    Humans look for patterns. Humans make meaning. We want to know what’s going on. Being human means remembering the past and making forecasts about the future.

    This exhibition is about what it means to be human on a changing planet with an uncertain future. When faced with uncertainty, humans make predictions, test models, and tell stories. By collecting some particularly striking forecasts about the weather and climate of planet Earth and our place on it, the STRANGE WEATHER exhibition reflects the dreams and desires, memories and models, needs and nightmares that we have about atmospheric patterns. HazMat Suits for Children and Survivaball are both humorous and horrifying—these are artworks that let us try on failed futures. The projects Urpflanze and Climate Bureau offer visions of the future, where scientists and policy makers succeed in shifting our priorities and actions towards desirable outcomes. The value of these forecasts from the future is not their predictive capability, but how they enable us to imagine and test out responses to possible scenarios—mapping what we expect, declaring our desires and acknowledging our fears.

    WHY WEATHER?

    Humans experience weather continuously via our senses. Our bodies take note of the slightest variations in temperature, light, wind and precipitation. The weather is everywhere and always on. When weather conditions are not extreme we may barely pay attention, only taking notice when weather changes dramatically. Terrifying storms power our nightmares. Reviving rains inspire joy and thanks. Sudden gusts of wind can change the way we walk. Even a warm sunny day can make us uneasy if it’s the wrong time of year. Extreme weather drives human emotion and imagination.

    The works in this show employ both scientific and artistic methods to investigate weather. Raindrop is a recreation of a 40-year old science lab apparatus that allows us to study a single drop of water that hovers in mid-air. Thinking Like a Cloud draws new connections between the microbes that live in clouds and on the human body. Other projects zoom out and draw our attention to environmental and political changes that are taking place in Humans look for patterns. Humans make meaning. We want to know what’s going on. Being human means remembering the past and making forecasts about the future. Forecasts from the Future CATHRINE KRAMER & ZACKERY C. DENFELD, Curators of STRANGE WEATHER and co-founders of CoClimate 10 — 12 — — 13 the Arctic and in Europe. Our partners at Met Éireann have provided us with historical artefacts and helped us imagine what weather forecasting may look like in 2035. And the future is where things get strange.

    STRANGE WEATHER

    Weather is driven by differences in temperature and moisture from one place to another. Climate is the average of these conditions over long periods of time. If weather is, by definition, difference, what makes weather strange?

    Strange weather occurs when our lived experiences don’t conform to our expectations or the models we have in our heads. Strange weather deviates from the patterns we have documented in the past. Strange weather differs from climate change because we experience it with our own senses, in real time. Climate change is only documented collectively, over the span of multiple human lifetimes, whereas strange weather is up close and personal.

    When taking the long view, weather on Earth has always been strange, and the fact that the climate has remained relatively stable long enough for human civilisations to emerge is unusual. Scientists report that a future of strange weather is inevitable and is accelerated by current and past human activities. We will only know if strange weather is truly anomalous in the long run, but to borrow a phrase from economics, “In the long run, we are all dead”. When anomalous weather events happen during our lifetime we respond by changing our habits, developing new behaviours, artefacts and ways of existing in the world. Stronger storms, massive floods and longer droughts drive us towards the creation of resilient cities, new festivals and novel agricultural practices.

    Artworks such as A People’s Archive of Sinking and Melting and Archive of Old and New Events document the relationship between a changing climate and human culture by collecting artefacts and imagining new celebrations for emerging environmental circumstances. Human culture is being reshaped to fit strange weather, but can we reshape weather to fit our strange culture?

    WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN GEOENGINEERS

    Humans change things. We don’t exist outside of nature. We are high on the food chain but, like everything else on planet Earth, we exist within the confines of the Earth’s biosphere. Human individuals and civilisations consume energy and material. We often make a mess. Every year there are more of us, and our world energy consumption increases, but we are constrained by Earth’s energy budget. Solar radiation comes in and infrared radiation goes out. Along the way novel technologies, from sedentary agriculture to fossil fuel use, have altered the way we change the planet. We have always been geoengineers, but we have not been very good at it.

    Human cultures have a long and dubious history of trying to control weather events and the climate as a whole. This exhibition features The Weather War, which documents some of the more fantastical attempts at weather control from the last century, while I Wish to Be Rain asks if some humans might actually want their ashes to be used for cloud seeding after they die.

    Human civilisation is reliant on complex systems that regulate the physical and biogeochemical flows on the planet. Anthropogenic activities have always had some effect on those processes. From the first human to the last, we will always shape the systems that shape us. Assuming that we want to continue the human project on planet Earth, what strategies can we implement to maintain a biosphere that humans can inhabit? On the long scale of human history, our use of fossil fuels will probably become a small part of the story. If we imagine restructuring and powering a civilisation without fossil fuels our attention turns again towards the sun. Towards differences in temperature, wind and precipitation. Ultimately, towards the weather.

  • Gerald Fleming

    Curator of STRANGE WEATHER and Head of Forecasting at Met Éireann

    Science has spent many centuries probing the...
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    Gerald Fleming

    So much of what happens in our lives today is organised and predictable. Our journeys to work or school, our timetables of classes, meetings or deadlines. Even our weekend activities are timed, trimmed and scheduled. It seems that all facets of our lives are fully under control.

    Not quite. The weather alone remains untamed, maintaining its ability to surprise us, disappoint us, even occasionally delight us with its disparate moods. It can strike fear to the heart, or provide balm to the soul. It is the last frontier of nature. The Atlantic Ocean is a theatre, where great meteorological dramas are played out every day; dramas in which we insignificant humans can play no part, except to look on in awe. At least in Ireland we have the best seats in the house.

    Science has spent many centuries probing the mysteries of the atmosphere. From the Tower of the Winds in Athens to the supercomputers of today, humankind has struggled to comprehend the forces that are unleashed in the air around us. Not without success—today we understand the physics and dynamics that lie behind most of the common weather phenomena, and we use this understanding to try and predict the next moves the atmosphere will make. Weather forecasts have improved more in the past thirty years than in the previous three hundred.

    Yet weather retains its capacity to surprise. Weather operates across a huge range of scales in both space and time, from the majestic low pressure regions that can cover half a continent to the tiny swirl caused by a leaf falling from a tree on an autumn evening. With our satellites, radars and observation stations we can capture information about the larger scales, but the smaller scales elude us; our knowledge of what the atmosphere is doing now, just at this moment, is unavoidably incomplete.

    The people who work in Met Éireann, like those who work in all National Meteorological Services throughout the world, have accepted this unequal challenge; to pit our human wits against some of the most elusive expressions of nature, to understand the atmosphere both scientifically and viscerally, so that we may prepare the public for what lies ahead.

    Like the weather itself, this preparation must span many time scales. Of course we want to know if it will be a fine evening, whether tomorrow will be dry, or whether the rains will come to sustain the crops in our fields. However, we also need to know in what ways our atmosphere is changing; in what ways we insignificant humans have finally managed to affect the air around us. What does that mean for the climate that will sustain our children, and our children’s children, through the middle and later years of the 21st century? For all of our regulated and insulated lives, understanding and appreciating weather and climate has never been more important for humankind than it is today.