How the great painters of world recorded changes in the atmosphere for posterity

For all of you that love art as much as I do, this week’s blog is sure to interest you!

A team of German and Greek art and science researchers have recently published in the “Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics journal published by the European Geosciences Union (EGU for short) their findings of the correlation between the colors of painted sunsets and the estimable level of pollution. Specifically, the famous paintings that they studied show how much ash and gas had been released after volcanic eruptions. According to them, eruptions like the one that occurred in Indonesia’s Tambora volcano in 1815.

Artists all over Europe noticed the changes in sunset color as the volcanic ash and gas “spewed into the atmosphere.” The particles scattered the sunlight, causing sunsets to appear more red or orange than usual. Apparently this wasn’t a one time occurrence; rather, this phenomenon lasted up to 3 years.

One such nature artist was J. M. W. Turner. Scientists, along with art historians, are using his and other paintings to further understand how the composition of the atmosphere relates to the art of the time. In order to fully do so, the team analyzed hundreds of high-quality photographs of sunset paintings between the years of 1500 BCE and 2000. This period included over 50 volcanic eruptions in places all around the world. The result? The green-to-red ratio did in fact correlate with the amount of volcanically emitted aerosols within the atmosphere; this was across the board, no matter the school or location of the painters.

This study is already helping researchers to fully understand how aerosols of any type have affected and could continue to affect the Earth’s climate.

In order to read more about this fascinating study, click the link below!


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