Arctic video screenshot

A six-minute “explainer” video produced by the Aspen Global Change Institute provides a highly accessible description of the impacts of rapidly warming Arctic surface temperatures and resulting weather patterns far beyond. The video’s creative approach to science communication provides a useful approach to informing a broad audience about climate change-related issues.

Using time-lapse film and watercolor illustrations to enhance its narration, the video explains that the average surface temperature in the Arctic is warming more than twice as fast as the globe as a whole (see here and here). Scientists familiar with Arctic melting suggest that there may be nearly no sea ice in the Arctic during summer months by the late 2030s: Within the next two decades, the North Pole may completely transform into open ocean for parts of the year.

The video – freely available and the product of a 2017 week-long workshop on “Understanding the Causes and Consequences of Polar Amplification” – describes how the impacts of global changes such as Arctic warming and sea ice loss are not limited to the Arctic. It points to “teleconnections” in explaining that fluctuations in one area of the Earth can affect other areas far away.

So what could warming Arctic surface temperatures mean for the rest of the globe? The answer: many things. To produce and write the video, AGCI Creative Director Ellie Barber worked with climate science expert James Screen from the University of Exeter to accurately represent the scientific research on a relationship between Arctic warming and changing patterns in the jet stream. Offering a concise definition of the jet stream, the video explores a correlation between the warming of the Arctic and shifting weather patterns observed in the United States. Some scientists have pointed to evidence of a potential slowing of jet stream wind speeds, for example, which could cause weather patterns, such as winter storms or droughts, to stay in place for longer periods of time.

'This video is about science, about creativity, and how we can use creativity to enhance our understanding of science.' Click To Tweet

In a quick review of the jet stream, atmospheric air pressure, and how the two are connected, this video explores some of the hidden consequences and impacts of global climate change. “This video is about science, about creativity, and how we can use creativity to enhance our understanding of science,” Barber says. She sees great potential for incorporating visual aids and explanations to communicate the complex, “invisible” components of the changing climate.