The art of science

30 June 2016

DATA AS ART is a groundbreaking science/art project being developed at NERC's British Antarctic Survey (BAS).

It uses visualisations of real scientific data from the poles to create stunning, thought-provoking articles that also relate to important and exciting science stories. These images are just a small selection of what the project's produced.


Echo sounder

The bathymetry of the sea floor north-east of the volcanic Saunders Island in the South Sandwich Archipelago. Deeply-eroded canyons funnel sediment down the submarine slope of the volcano into deep water (shown in blue).

The large volume of sediments being transported down the slope have produced highly-developed sediment wave-fields which trend across the slope. The high sedimentation rates indicate high erosion rates of the volcanically-active and glaciated island.


Sea ice

An optical satellite image of sea ice in the marginal ice zone in the northern Weddell Sea. The image is approximately 100km across and shows swirling sea-ice patterns, including numerous icebergs, caused by the interaction of the sea ice with ocean currents and wind.

This data is used to validate routine sea-ice and iceberg observations delivered as part of the Polar View operational sea-ice monitoring project.


Radio echo

A perspective view of the Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains, imaged using airborne ice-penetrating radar to look through the overlying ice sheet.

The rugged subglacial topography holds a record of the glacial processes which have sculpted the mountains. These include pre-glacial river valleys and subsequent local valley glaciers which eroded the mountain range. The record is preserved by the present blanketing ice sheet. This data, together with measurements of the Earth's gravitational and magnetic fields, also help reveal the tectonic processes which originally built this unique mountain range.


Electron precipitation

Space weather events involve large explosions on the Sun, called coronal mass ejections, which create geomagnetic storms. These storms are fierce enough to tear open the magnetic field that protects the Earth from harmful cosmic rays.

Energetic particles, which are trapped in the Earth's magnetic field some 35,000km above the Earth's surface, are then forced down towards the Earth's atmosphere. These particles change the chemistry of the atmosphere and create nitric oxide, which in turn affects the heating and cooling of the atmosphere.

The challenge is to understand how this links to the climate change that we experience at the Earth’s surface through winds and atmospheric circulation.


Ozone hole

The discovery of the Antarctic Ozone Hole is one of the most important scientific papers of recent decades.

The discovery, in 1985, by British Antarctic Survey scientists Joe Farman, Brian Gardiner and Jonathan Shanklin, led to the hugely successful Montreal Agreement, proving that science can influence society and change the way we view our fragile planet.

This artwork represents 30 years of data collected since the discovery, showing the extent of the Antarctic Ozone Hole and its changing position over the South Pole. Each circle marks the year's maximum area with a recorded value below 220 Dobson Units, the official designation for an ozone hole.

BAS is now exploring where these artworks will be displayed. For more information, contact Pete Bucktrout, the project's creator at BAS, at , or visit the DATA AS ART - external link - section of BAS's website.