SciQuilt – The changing balance of Arctic sea ice

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March 21, 2021 by Dr. G

color palette for Stripes Mini Quilt Challenge

I decided to try something different with my latest science-themed quilt – I challenged myself with a challenge! Curated Quilts hosts mini quilt challenges with a theme and defined color palette. For the March 2021 Stripes Mini Quilt Challenge, quilters were to use “balance” as inspiration for the quilt design and a color palette of soft grey, jade green, bright pink, bright blue, purple, and highlighter yellow to match (see submission page). The final quilts had to be square and between 10×10 inches and 16×16 inches on each side.

When I saw that the theme for March was stripes, I immediately felt that this would be a great time to create my first data visualization quilt. I’ve crocheted rows of maximum temperature data for striped temperate blankets (see blog posts), but I had yet to quilt a representation of earth science data. I thought of sticking with temperature records and explored the global warming stripes from #ShowYourStripes, but after scanning through the Berkeley Earth Global Temperature Report for 2020, I found my inspiration that could connect stripes and balance (or a lack of balance):

A graph that shows Periods when the Arctic Ocean has been Passable, from July through mid-November

Curated Quilts provides a starter set of fat quarters in the color palette for the challenge (see image at beginning of this post), and I immediately went online and ordered a set, since I knew I wouldn’t have enough solids in my current collection across these colors.

To start, I printed out the graph above and measured on the paper for each year, from left to right, how many inches represented the time when the Arctic Ocean was passable by ships and the time the region was impassable. Each row, or “stripe” in my quilt” represents the data shown in the graph, using blue and white. The height of each row is half an inch, to try to include as many years as possible. In my square, I was able to go back to 1992 (bottom white row, where white represents the Arctic Ocean is not passable) and ended on the top with jade green for 2021, as we don’t know yet how much of the year will be passable.

The bright pink and highlighter yellow colors spoke to me as warning colors. I framed this graph in these colors to call attention to how the surface area of Arctic sea ice is changing of a very quick period of time. This is something we need to pay attention to, as an ice-free Arctic will allow for shipping, new priorities for military activity/national security, impact on the biosphere (especially to those living in the Arctic Circle that rely on the ocean as a food source), and the list goes on.

The back of the quilt is where I used the purple. I don’t think I was required to use all the colors in the quilt, but they all made it in there! My finished quilt measures approximately 14 inches by 14 inches.

I submitted the quilt to the Curated Quilts mini quilt challenge. Although my quilting skills are no match for the other submissions I have seen online, I’m very happy with how this came out, and I will continue to challenge myself to create quilts that tell science stories, even in a mini version, by representing scientific data.

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