Category Archives: literature

Communicating Climate Change — a book you should definitely know about!

In a presentation about science communication I gave on Monday, I recommended a couple of resources for scientists interested in science communication. For example the amazing climatevisuals.org for advice on which images to use to communicate about climate change (plus lots of images that even come with explanations for what purpose they work well, and why!). And of course my #scicommchall to get people inspired to try out a new micro scicomm format every month.

But here is an (open access!) book I wish I had known about then already but only came across two days after my presentation: “Communicating Climate Change” by A. K. Armstrong, M. E. Krasny, J. P. Schuldt (2018).

This is a book aimed at educators who want to communicate climate change in a literature-based and effective manner. It consists of four parts: A background, the psychology of climate change, communication, and stories from the field, which I will briefly review below (and you should definitely check out the real thing!). It’s nice and easy to read, and there are “bottom line for educators” at the end of each chapter as well as recaps at the end of each part, making it easy to get a quick overview even if you might not have the time to read the whole thing in detail.

Background

This part of the book begins with an introduction to climate change science, reporting state-of-the-art science on climate, greenhouse gases, evidence for climate change, and climate impacts. It then moves to how climate change can be addressed: by mitigating or adapting to its effects, how it is important to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and how that can be achieved both on an individual level and by collective action. It ends with a “bottom line for educators” summary that stresses that climate change is real, that misinformation campaigns are an unfortunate reality, and that educators can contribute to solving the problem.

The next chapter then deals with what is known on attitudes and knowledge about climate change in different audiences internationally and at different ages, explaining that attitudes are actually a pretty bad predictor for behaviour, but nevertheless important to know about if you are an educator! For example, if you want teens to be concerned about climate change, a useful approach might be to involve their parents along with them, since what family and friends believe about climate change is very important to what an individual teenager believes, as is how often they discuss climate topics with their friends and family. Again, the “bottom line for educators” breaks this down into advice, for example to focus on different topics depending on how concerned about climate change a given audience already is, or to focus on areas in which a common ground between them and their audiences exists in order to generate a constructive and positive dialogue even though there might still be areas in which they do not agree with their audiences (which they should think about beforehand, hence the importance to know about the audience’s attitudes).

The next chapter suggests possible outcomes for climate change education — how do we know if a climate change communication activity was successful? — and stresses the importance of defining these goals in the first place. Outcomes can be defined on the level of individuals, of communities, of the environment, or of resilience of all of the above. For individuals, outcomes could for example be literacy (understanding essential principles, knowledge of how to assess scientifically credible information, ability to communicate, ability to make informed and responsible decisions) of climate change, or attitudes and emotions, the feeling of confidence that you can reach your goals, or environmentally friendly behaviour. For communities, outcomes could be positive development of youth, building of social capital (e.g. trust or positive action), the belief that the community can reach a goal together, or action taken together by the whole community. Focussing on the environment, an outcome could be adaptation to, or mitigation of, climate change.

The next chapter then presents three climate change vignettes — three examples of how different educators address different audiences in different settings — and a discussion of why they chose to design their activity a certain way and react to questions or comments the way they did.

The psychology of climate change

This part of the book presents psychology research on why knowledge about climate change is not sufficient to actually change behaviours.

Identity research especially is very helpful, as it explains how in order to feel like you are part of a group (something that we as humans are hard-wired to crave) we tend to conform with our group’s norms and values. We might be part of different groups at different times as well as simultaneously (for example our family as one and our colleagues as another, or inhabitant of a city, or student of oceanography), and contexts trigger specific identities that might even not be completely congruent with each other. When new information is presented, we interpret it in a way that does not threaten our identity in the context the information is presented in. Therefore, in order to not threaten anybody’s identity and making it impossible for them to take on our message, it is important to make sure that climate change is not communicated as something polarising or political, but rather choose to trigger identities that are inclusive, like for example “inhabitant of place x”, and focus on outcomes that benefit that community independent of what other identities might exist, by for example protecting a local beach.

Psychological distance is another lens through which climate change communication can be viewed. The more distant a problem seems, the less important it is perceived. Therefore focussing on local relevance rather than global, on places that are important to people, on communities they care about, might in some cases be helpful — although not always; the results of the research on this are not conclusive yet.

Then a few other relevant psychological research areas are discussed, like for example “terror management theory”. This leads to the recommendation to avoid “doom and gloom” presentations of climate change that might kick people into a defence mechanism of ignoring the topic to protect their emotional well-being in the moment, and to focus on hope and positive action instead. Then there is the “cognitive dissonance theory”, according to which we try to ignore information that conflicts with what we think we already know or threatens other goals we might have. The recommendation here is to give people ideas of easy things they can do to combat climate change to combat cognitive dissonance.

Communication

This part of the book presents three aspects of communicating climate change: How we frame it, which analogies and metaphors we use, and how we, as a messenger, can build trust.

“Framing” is about how a message is featured in a story line to help the audience interpret it in a certain way, by making certain aspects of it especially visible, for example economic aspects or tipping points. When thinking about framing a climate change message, it is important to think about audiences and their identities and to avoid wording that will trigger identities which make it difficult to accept the message. Depending on the desired outcomes, climate change communications could, for example, be framed for solutions, hope, or values. There are ways to build entire climate change communication programs around those frames, and there are several examples given for how this might be done.

The next chapter focusses on analogies and metaphors. For example, “osteoporosis of the sea” (which I had never heard in use before) has been found to be a successful metaphor for ocean acidification. However, as all metaphors, it only highlights similarities between issues and neglects to mention the dissimilarities which makes them tricky to use because it’s hard to make sure people don’t take a metaphor so far that it breaks down. In fact, to address this problem, the authors recommend to explicitly talk about where the analogy or metaphor will break down.

Establishing trust in the climate change messengers: This is tricky as people tend to trust other people that hold values similar to their own. Therefore it is helpful to think about the messenger and to use trusted middle persons. [There is are actually some very interesting work on trust out there, for example by Hendriks, Kienhues and Bromme (2015) that isn’t mentioned in the book, but that I’d be happy to summarise for you if anyone is interested!]

Stories from the field

The book ends with a part called “stories from the field” in which examples of different climate change communication activities, focussing on different goals, audiences, messenges and happening in very different settings, are given and the design choices that were made explained in detail. Also for each of the story, an example is given how the message is phrased in actual interaction with the target audience. All of this is super interesting to read because all the theory the book provided in the previous chapters is applied to real world cases, which makes it easy to see how they might be applied to your own climate change communication activities. Also these best practice examples are inspiring to see and give me a sense of hope.

To sum up: I really enjoyed reading this book! So much so that continuing reading it was more important than getting a good Instagram pic of my latte while writing this blogpost. I would really recommend anyone interested in climate change communication to check it out! When I finished my talk on Monday, on my second to last slide I put the African proverb along the lines of “if you think you are too small to make a difference, try going to sleep with a mosquito in the room”. I used this to talk about using messages of hope in climate change communication, and then also applied it to science communication — don’t think you are too small to make a difference there, either! And that’s a message that this book conveys really well, too, providing a good idea of what one could do and how one might go about it, and inspiring one — or at least me — to do so, too.

“Laboratory layered latte” – combining latte and double diffusion. Easily my favourite paper ever!

My friends know me well. Especially A&I, which was proven again when they sent me the link to an article about two things that I am mildly obsessed with: Latte and double-diffusive mixing.

My obsession with latte is a fairly recent thing, but I have been known to blog about interesting convection pattern in it (for example here). The obsession with double-diffusive mixing, however, is well documented for more than the last 12 years (for example when I am writing experimental instructionspoems or scientific articles about it).

The double-diffusive process that I have been most concerned with is salt fingering, because it is oh-so-pretty, and also fool-proof to create for teaching purposes (when you know how to do it).

Diffusive layering I seem have to be a little frustrated with, at least in teaching (but reading back this post now, it turns out that that was entirely my own fault and not my students’. Oh well, you live and learn! Isn’t this exactly the kind of stuff that makes for great teaching portfolios? ;-)).

And it also turns out that I did the experiments themselves all wrong. According to the article “laboratory layered latte” by Xue et al. (2017). I should not have been trying to carefully stratify a tank in order to see diffusive layering. Instead, I should just have quickly poured the lower density fluid into the higher density one, and layers would have formed by themselves!

So there is one thing that you won’t see any time soon:

Yep. Me drinking latte from any kind of vessel that doesn’t let me look at the stratification! I don’t know how I could ever have fallen into the trap of missing out on observing fluid dynamics while having my early morning coffee in the office. Now I urgently need a nice glass mug!

And you should go check out the article, it’s a really nice read. My new ambition in life: Write a fluid dynamics research article that applies the FD to some really cool, yet mundane, every day thing. Are you in, Elin? :-)

Xue, Nan and Khodaparast, Sepideh and Zhu, Lailai and Nunes, Janine K. and Kim, Hyoungsoo and Stone, Howard A., Laboratory layered latte. Nature Communications 8(1), 2017

Some things are better left unseen — research shows that watching yourself in a video meeting is not a good thing

I’m a big fan of virtual meetings: For planning outreach activities taking place in France with a team in Norway while sitting in my office in Germany (see here, and definitely check out the product of that planning meeting, Elin Darelius’ & Team’s blog from a 13-m-diameter rotating tank!), when giving a lecture in Iceland from my office in Norway (see here), or even when taking examinations via Skype when sitting in Nadine’s apartment in Norway and the panel was sitting in Germany (see here).

BUT I’ve known it all along: It makes me less focussed on the discussions in a Skype meeting when I can see myself. Because I start thinking about how people on the other end perceive me, if they are wondering about what’s in the shelves behind me, whether the angle of the camera is as bad as it feels. Or, as Hassell & Cotton (2017) write, objective self-awareness increases, as does cognitive load. In a laboratory study, they find that “seeing one’s own feed during video mediated communication does make a difference, and it can be detrimental to task performance”.

Interesting! So next time I’m in a video conference, I’ll just put a post-it note on my screen to cover my face. Problem solved! Or maybe then I’ll only wonder about what the other side is seeing… But it’s worth a try!

planning

Response of the ACC to climate change #scipoem

The response of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current to recent climate change*

Around and around the southern pole
The Antarctic Circumpolar Current, inspiring
Around and around the southern pole
Seemingly without a goal
Going east, east, east, untiring
East, east, east, admiring!
Around and around the southern pole

Around and around the southern pole
To “the mightiest of all ocean currents” people bowed
Around and around the southern pole
In the Southern Ocean playing the most important role
Despite going slowly, it has never slowed
Enormous amounts of water have flowed
Around and around the southern pole

Around and around the southern pole
Up to 2 kilometres wide
Around and around the southern pole
2 to 4 km deep the flow, no shoal
putting Atlantic, Indic, Pacific, side by side,
connecting them with an enormous tide
Around and around the southern pole

Around and around the southern pole
No continents are in it’s way, by winds the whole is driven
Around and around the southern pole
Blending the world’s oceans’ waters in its endless stroll
Oceans that otherwise are riven
Its importance for climate is given
Around and around the southern pole

Around and around the southern pole
As climate changes, so does the driving wind field
Around and around the southern pole
But studies show that on the whole
Despite the ocean being exposed to winds without shield
In total no changes to the current are yield’d
Around and around the southern pole

*Inspired by an article by Böning, Dispert, Visbeck, Rintoul & Schwarzkopf (2008). This poem’s form is called “rondelet”.

#scipoem on an Darelius et al. article about ice shelves

“Observed vulnerability of Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf to wind-driven inflow of warm deep water”*

Let’s talk ab’t a favourite paper
“Observed vulnerability of Filchner-
Ronne Ice Shelf to
wind-driven inflow
of wa(-a-a-a-a)rm deep water”

An ice shelf is ice that is floating
on top of the sea as it’s flowing
down from a continent
this one is prominent
more ar’onl’ the Ross Shelf is coating.

In oc’nographers’ jargon, “deep water”
(as we learned by heart at my alma mater)
are defined by their propertie’
and live in the deep, deep sea
and currently they are getting hotter.

But “warm” is a relative measure
bathing in it would be no pleasure
it’s temperature typically
less than just one degree!
Go measure yourself at your leisure!

As winds weaken now during summer
warm water, like led by a plumber,
climbs up the continent
and can now circumvent
sills and reach ice from under.

If temperatures rise as projected
a lot of the ice will be ‘ffected.
Raising the lev’l o’ sea,
changing hydrography,
which needs to be further dissected.

Because of its climatic impact
which Elin has now shown to be fact
we need close observation
of deep water formation
so all changes can carefully be tracked.

*that’s the title of an article by (Elin) Darelius et al. (2016) which served as inspiration for this poem.

Tale of arctic melting and deep water formation #scipoem

Tale of arctic melting and deep water formation

Freshwater freezes long before saltwater does,
and it also floats on top of saltwater.
In the Nordic Seas, deep waters are formed.
If there is a lot of freshwater,
less deep water can be formed.
The sea freezes over.
Ice then insulates,
prevents heat flux,
shutting down
ocean’s
pump.

But
this is
too simple.
Influencing
fresh water layers
are also the currents.
East of Greenland, to name one,
flows fast the East Greenland Current,
taking away all the freshwater
through the Denmark Strait south, and further south,
where the freshwater mixes with saltwater
until anomalies return decades later,
starting the circle again. Now what if Greenland melts?*

*I don’t actually have an answer to the question what will happen if there is a large input of freshwater into the Nordic Seas (which seems unavoidable under global warming when both Arctic sea ice and Greenland glaciers melt). My own research, interpreting measurements taken in the region between 1950 and 2000, shows that during that period the fresh meltwater got transported south, out of the Nordic Seas, as suggested in the poem (Glessmer, Eldevik, Våge, Nilsen, & Behrens, 2014). However, even the newest of those measurements are almost a decade old now, and the debate among experts about what will happen is wide open. Exciting times!

A #scipoem on upwelling of tropical OMZ waters in a warmer climate

“Simulated reduction in upwelling of tropical oxygen minimum waters in a warmer climate”*

Let’s pick apart this article’s title,
inaccessible to most people out there.
Even though we know it as vital
to communicate clearly, be able to share,
what goes on in iv’ry towers detrital,
to whom it is relevant, as well as where.
Since taxpayers pay for us, science and all,
we need to inform them without any brawl.

“Sim’lated” just means a model predicts.
“Warmer climate”, then, is scientists’ code
for “some time in the future”, but nothing fix.
Which means if we continue down this road
of putting more CO2 in the mix
“upwelling”, whatever that is, will be slowed.
“Upwelling” means that waters from the deep
up to the surface of the ocean creep.

“Tropical” means “going on in the tropic’”.
“Oxygen minimum waters” contain
low levels of oxygen, which are a topic
of discussion in the science domain,
because if levels sink down to “hypoxic”,
almost no life in the sea can remain.
Fate of dead animals and plants, in the end,
does on the oxygen levels depend.

Dependent on oxygen, chemicals form,
that can change climate as does CO2,
if they reach the atmosphere in a storm
or just by “upwelling”, out of the blue,
they make that further the climate will warm.
Therefore, it’s nice to know that the brew
of “oxygen minimum waters” will leach
more slowly to continents’ western beach’.

screen-shot-2017-08-28-at-11-38-36

*This poem is in the “Ottava Rima” form and it explains the title of an article by Glessmer, Park & Oschlies (2011). The title of this article was also chosen as title to this poem.

Double the trouble — a poem about double-diffusive mixing in the ocean

On my blog’s fourth Birthday (!!!), it’s time to try something new. How about some celebratory oceanographic poetry? Obviously the topic has to be my oceanic pet process, double-diffusive mixing

 

Double the trouble

Heat mixes by molecules bumping
into each other and clunking
momentum transfers
so fast it all blurs
the warmer the faster they’r’all jumping

A different story for salts
where ions — through not their own faults!
must change their location
which leads to palpation
resembling a fairly slow waltz

Now heat and salt mix simultaneous
-ly without ‘ny extra extraneous
stirring or shaking
fish swimming, waves breaking,
which leads to effects miscellaneous

The ones I like best are salt finger:
structures that form and then linger,
tricking unsuspicious
oc’nographers vicious
-ly into assuming not threat to the thinker

This process includ’d in simulations
leads to much better foundations
of climate prediction
that is my conviction
you can read here* about the causations

Not only the currents o’the ocean
that consequently change their motion
but also biology
chemistry, geology
and last, not least, atmospheric transpos’tion

To sum up, this double diffusion,
those fingers that are no illusion
when climate has changed
the ocean’s been deranged
def’nitly deserve an inclusion :-)

 

 

Happy Birthday, my little blog! :-)

IMG_9084

*Glessmer, M. S., Oschlies, A., & Yool, A. (2008). Simulated impact of double‐diffusive mixing on physical and biogeochemical upper ocean properties. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans113(C8).

I am missing institute seminars! Or: Why we should talk to people who use different methods

You probably know that I have recently changed my research focus quite dramatically, from physical oceanography to science communication research. What that means is that I am a total newbie (well, not total any more, but still on a very steep learning curve), and that I really appreciate listening to talks from a broad range of topics in my new field to get a feel for the lay of the land, so to speak. We do have institute seminars at my current work place, but they only take place like once a month, and I just realized how much I miss getting input on many different things on at least a weekly basis without having to explicitly seek them out. To be fair, it’s also summer vacation time and nobody seems to be around right now…

But anyway, I want to talk about why it is important that people not only of different disciplines talk, but also people from within the same discipline that use different approaches. I’ll use my first article (Simulated impact of double-diffusive mixing on physical and biogeochemical upper ocean properties by Glessmer, Oschlies, and Yool (2008)) to illustrate my point.

I don’t really know how it happened, but by my fourth year at university, I was absolutely determined to work on how this teeny tiny process, double-diffusive mixing (that I had seen in tank experiments in a class), would influence the results of an ocean model (as I was working as student research assistant in the modelling group). And luckily I found a supervisor who would not only let me do it, but excitedly supported me in doing it.

Double-diffusive mixing, for those of you who don’t recall, looks something like this when done in a tank experiment:

IMG_9084

And yep, that’s me in the reflection right there :-)

Why should anyone care about something so tiny?

Obviously, there is a lot of value in doing research to satisfy curiosity. But for a lot of climate sciences, one important motivation for the research is that ultimately, we want to be able to predict climate, and that means that we need good climate models. Climate models are used as basis for policy decisions and therefore should represent the past as well as the present and future (under given forcing scenarios) as accurately as possible.

Why do we need to know about double-diffusive mixing if we want to model climate?

Many processes are not actually resolved in the model, but rather “parameterized”, i.e. represented by functions that estimate the influence of the process. And one process that is parameterized is double-diffusive mixing, because its scale (even though in the ocean the scale is typically larger than in the picture above) is too small to be represented.

Mixing, both in ocean models and in the real world, influences many things:

  • By mixing temperature and salinity (not with each other, obviously, but warmer waters with colder, and at the same time more salty waters with less salty), we change density of the water, which is a function of both temperature and salinity. By changing density, we are possibly changing ocean currents.
  • At the same, other tracers are influenced: Waters with more nutrients mix with waters with less, for example. Also changed currents might now supply nutrient-rich waters to other regions than they did before. This has an impact on biogeochemistry — stuff (yes, I am a physical oceanographer) grows in other regions than before, or gets remineralized in different places and at different rates, etc.
  • A change in biogeochemistry combined with a changed circulation can lead to changed air-sea fluxes of, for example, oxygen, CO2, nitrous oxide, or other trace gases, and then you have your influence on the atmosphere right there.

What are the benefits of including tiny processes in climate models?

Obviously, studying the influence of individual processes leads to a better understanding of ocean physics, which is a great goal in itself. But that can also ultimately lead to better models, better predictions, better foundation for policies. But my main point here isn’t even what exactly we need to include or not, it is that we need a better flow of information, and a better culture of exchange.

Talk to each other!

And this is where this tale connects to me missing institute seminars: I feel like there are too few opportunities for exchange of ideas across research groups, for learning about stuff that doesn’t seem to have a direct relevance to my own research (so I wouldn’t know that I should be reading up on it) but that I should still be aware of in case it suddenly becomes relevant.

What we need is that, staying in the example of my double-diffusive mixing article, is that modellers keep exploring the impact of seemingly irrelevant changes to parameterizations or even the way things are coded. And if you aren’t doing it yourself, still keep it in the back of your head that really small changes might have a big influence, and listen to people working on all kinds of stuff that doesn’t seem to have a direct impact on your own research. In case of including the parameterization of double-diffusive mixing, oceanic CO2 uptake is enhanced by approximately 7% of the anthropogenic CO2 signal compared to a control run! And then there might be a climate sensitivity of processes, i.e. double-diffusive mixing happening in many ore places under a climate that has lead to a different oceanic stratification. If we aren’t even aware of this process, how can we possibly hope that our model will produce at least semi-sensible results? And what we also need are that the sea going and/or experimental oceanographers keep pushing their research to the attention of modellers. Or, if we want less pushing: more opportunities for and interest in exchanging with people from slightly different niches than our own!

One opportunity just like that is coming up soon, when I and others will be writing from Grenoble about Elin Darelius and her team’s research on Antarctic stuff in a 12-m-diameter rotating tank. Imagine that. A water tank of that size, rotating! To simulate the influence of Earth’s rotation on ocean current. And we’ll be putting topography in that! Stay tuned, it will get really exciting for all of us, and all of you! :-)

P.S.: My #COMPASSMessageBox for this blogpost below. I really like working with this tool! Read more about the #COMPASSMessageBox.

message_box_dd

And here is the full citation: Glessmer, M. S., Oschlies, A., & Yool, A. (2008). Simulated impact of double‐diffusive mixing on physical and biogeochemical upper ocean properties. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 113(C8).

How to make your science meaningful and accessible to any audience

Are you hesitant to do outreach because you don’t really know how to convey your message to an audience that isn’t as fascinated by your field as you are and doesn’t have at least some background knowledge? Then here is a tool that will help you make your science meaningful and accessible to any audience!

First: There is a need for science communication and we all know it. The obvious reason is because these days, pretty much all funding agencies require some form of science outreach or dissemination. Other reasons for wanting to do some form of science communication are that tax payers are funding a lot of the basic research going on and that they therefore have a right to know what they are paying for; and that the knowledge we create mainly gets locked up in scientific journals or presented at scientific conferences, but it doesn’t reach relevant audiences by itself.

And then you have a mountain of information in your head that you have accumulated over years or decades by studying and doing research on your topic. How do you find the message the audience should hear? What is critical? What really matters? And who is your relevant audience? Journalists, policy makers, citizens? School children? Anyone else?

There is a great tool that can help you with all of those questions, developed by COMPASS (and they have successfully trained thousands of scientists!): The #COMPASSMessageBox. It helps you break down your message by giving you step-by-step instructions and guidelines on how to do it:

First by dividing your overall message into different parts:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What is the overarching topic you are working on?
  • Why should your audience care? “So what?”
  • What is the problem you are addressing?
  • What solutions are you providing?
  • What are the benefits if this problem was addressed?

In addition, you are given a couple of guidelines (and the scientific reasons behind those):

  • “The public” doesn’t have your background knowledge, therefore boil your message down to 5 new facts max!
  • More knowledge doesn’t change attitudes, so don’t just lecture your audience, listen to them and interact!
  • We have all been trained to communicate to a scientific audience, using specific norms. The public, however, is used to and interested in a different kind of communication than scientific community, so adapt the way you structure your information!
  • Last, not least: No jargon! Don’t “waste” one or more of your five facts on introducing jargon!

So here we are, scientists! Make funding agencies happy! Become visible as experts! Gain recognition! Contribute to the democratisation of science! But also: Enjoy interacting with new people who will get excited about your science even though it is something they maybe thought they would never be interested in! Feel a new sense of purpose! And have fun being creative and coming up with new and different opportunities for communication! :-)

P.S.: Below you see one example of the #COMPASSMessageBox, filled with the stuff I wanted to write about in this blog post. Give it a try, it’s a really useful tool!

message_box