What We Talk About When We Talk About Rising Seas

A combination of data visualization and narrative collection, Sea Level Rise Stories is a chance to both spread awareness of how sea level rise has, and will continue, to affect the SF Bay, and better understand how folks perceive its impacts.

 The piece does so through a 4-step process. Steps 1 – 3 are time lapse videos of how shores have changed in the bay, beginning with the end of the last ice age (when the Bay was a riverine valley) and ending with projections of sea level rise in the 22nd century. Changing sea levels are presented at 3 scales and views – step 1 presents the larger Bay scale in aerial view, step 2 shows the more zoomed in city-wide scale in birds eye view, and step 3 illustrates a street view of the Pier 15 site over time. All these scale views show time lapse images of how sea level rise has changed the shape and character of the Bay. Step 4 provides users with the chance to share their impressions of sea level rise, what it makes them think about, how it scares and/or excites them.

By contextualizing sea level rise as an ongoing fact of life along the water, the project presents an opportunity to cultivate a different kind of dialogue about climate change, one that’s more about embracing change than fearing the unknown. Presenting the process of rising tides at a range of scales is a way to help people relate to this large phenomena on a more personal level. Allowing people to share their impressions after seeing these visualizations provides a place for meditation on the issue and generates a valuable wealth of data on public perception of sea level rise. Both are important.