Degrees of Uncertainty

Degrees of Uncertainty is a collaborative public art project with University of Rhode Island climate scientist Basia Marcks that visualizes the natural rhythm of Earth’s climate in the form of immersive projection installations. Our work takes time series data based on marine sediments and translates parameters like temperature and rate of climate change into visual qualities like color and movement. We started the project through the Vis-A-Thon program organized by the Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab at RISD, and have continued with the support of the National Science Foundation through the Collaborative Visualization Grant.

Projection installation
Advisors: Georgia Rhodes, Stewart Copeland

Research Process

Leading up to the installation, Basia and I conducted several site visits to both the Graduate School of Oceanography at URI and the RISD Nature Lab. Basia showed me sediment cores to help illustrate her method for collecting data about glacial transitions.   

To create our animation assets, we combined a Perlin Noise algorithm (shown lower left), with a data visualization about temperature change and nutrient consumption (shown lower right). The combination of these two inputs resulted in unique and organic forms that match well with the rhythms of earth’s climate.

We created four unique visualizations to represent periods of geological time from approximately one million years ago. Each visualization spans roughly one hundred thousand years and is indicative of a period of climate transition. Studying deep geological history can help us better understand changes happening in the earth’s climate today. 

The final installation cycles through each visualization on four panels, echoing the rhythm of earth’s climate. By presenting data in a way that maintains its integrity but is not as straightforward as a typical science graphic, the work offers a unique way for people to connect with and reflect on earth’s past.  

We recorded and documented segments of the installation in the compilation video below. 


A recent iteration of our project took place at GSO’s Science Saturday, where we created a poster, video installation, and learning activity to explain climate transition to participating children and families.
Los Angeles, Calif.