Coastline Paradox

Pekka Niittyvirta and Timo Aho · 2021
An interactive visualization of sea level rise due to global warming that shows areas that may become inundated using Google Maps and Street View. Created as a part of the Google Arts and Culture program.
MapsInformation designVisualizationInteractiveGraphic designData analysis

Project name, client and date, short description and thematic tags.

Artists Pekka Niittyvirta and Timo Aho approached us to help make a site-specific artwork called “Lines” into a virtual installation. We worked as a part of a multi-disciplinary team in realizing the project, with a particular focus on data processing and handling, layout and interface design.

In 2022 we also contributed data analysis and backend work to the related Línte na Farraige installations:

Google Maps and the Street View camera are ubiquitous and neutral, which we used to build on an emotionally detached platform. This gives space to the viewer’s own interpretation, where familiar imagery is subtly modified.

Street view of New York with line simulating sea level rise

We treated the world as a finite and common unit: The map is stripped from any borders between countries, to emphasize the global nature of climate change.

Viljami Peltola built the map view, while Henry Jalonen did additional backend work. To create the experience of viewing rising sea levels at different locations, the developers Janne Aukia and Ville Niemi built a 3d line drawing component into the Google Photo Spheres.

The project uses Climate Central’s CoastalDEM elevation model and the geospatial was hosted on Google’s web-based geospatial analysis toolkit Earth Engine.

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Emissions and temperature data follows the highest emissions scenario by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the so-called Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5, which represents high and rising CO2 emissions. This scenario has sometimes been called ”business as usual” but it is an extreme outcome which is now considerer unlikely by most climate scientists.