Several years ago, at an American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, I was mesmerized as a scientist showed repeat photos of natural places now versus decades ago. The glaciers in particular were shocking in their dramatic retreat. Such presentations focused on different regions have become a staple of AGU meetings, but they have been less accessible to non-scientists.
Two years ago came the tempting book Repeat Photography: Methods and Application in the Natural Sciences, edited by Robert H. Webb, with then and now photos. However, it’s more of a technical book about repeat photography’s scientific applications, and its $75 price reflects that.
Now, at long last, the masses can marvel at repeat photos. San Rafael, Calif.-based Red Hill Studios has just released the Painting With Time: Climate Change app for the iPad, which lets users explore how the world is changing over time using current and historic photos. Dragging a finger across the screen peels back the layers of time. The 17 photo sequences depict not just glaciers but also floods and droughts and the changing times of natural events, such as when plants flower. The iPhone version is due out April 25.
(Full disclosure: My friend Wendy Hari works for Red Hill Studios.) The company creates online science games and apps, interactive games for health, and immersive museum exhibitions.
“It’s very hard for people to really appreciate long term events; our brains are not wired that way,” said Red Hill Studios creative director Bob Hone. “This ‘temporal myopia’ has helped us ignore our impacts on the planet. Fortunately, with digital imagery and high tech satellites, we can extend our time perception to visualize the long term effects of climate change.”
Two climate scientists, Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University and Todd Stanford at the Union of Concerned Scientists, served as content consultants for the app. Dr. Hayhoe shared in the Nobel Prize awarded to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007.
Leading the image research was Gary Braasch, creator and photographer of the World View of Global Warming website and author of two books about climate change: How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate: Scientists and Kids Explore Global Warming and Earth Under Fire: How Global Warming is Changing the World. “In my public presentations of time-series photos, I’ve seen how dramatic sequences of glaciers can really show the effects of rapid climate change,” he said. “Now people can experience the transformation of our planet much more directly.”
Red Hill Studios will donate half of the money it receives from Apple for downloads of the $1.99 app to the Union of Concerned Scientists to aid its research on the effects of climate change on our planet. UCS is a science-based environmental organization that seeks to influence policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.
This 15-second video gives a sense of the app: