CLOSE
Original image
Getty Images

Watch The Snow Guardian, About a Reclusive Data Collector

Original image
Getty Images

billy barr (whose name is intentionally lowercase) is known as the "snow guardian." He has lived alone in a cabin in Gothic, Colorado, for more than 40 years. As part of his daily routine in those 40 winters, he has kept detailed snowfall and snowpack records.

His handwritten ledgers are useful for scientists, because they're among the most detailed accounts of snowfall in a single area ever kept. He's still at it, recording data and releasing it online.

Watch this beautiful short film for a look at barr's life in the snow:

If video isn't your thing, this article from The Atlantic is a great alternative.

arrow
Animals
Elusive Butterfly Sighted in Scotland for the First Time in 133 Years

Conditions weren’t looking too promising for the white-letter hairstreak, an elusive butterfly that’s native to the UK. Threatened by habitat loss, the butterfly's numbers have dwindled by 96 percent since the 1970s, and the insect hasn’t even been spotted in Scotland since 1884. So you can imagine the surprise lepidopterists felt when a white-letter hairstreak was seen feeding in a field in Berwickshire, Scotland earlier in August, according to The Guardian.

A man named Iain Cowe noticed the butterfly and managed to capture it on camera. “It is not every day that something as special as this is found when out and about on a regular butterfly foray,” Cowe said in a statement provided by the UK's Butterfly Conservation. “It was a very ragged and worn individual found feeding on ragwort in the grassy edge of an arable field.”

The white-letter hairstreak is a small brown butterfly with a white “W”-shaped streak on the underside of its wings and a small orange spot on its hindwings. It’s not easily sighted, as it tends to spend most of its life feeding and breeding in treetops.

The butterfly’s preferred habitat is the elm tree, but an outbreak of Dutch elm disease—first noted the 1970s—forced the white-letter hairstreak to find new homes and food sources as millions of Britain's elm trees died. The threatened species has slowly spread north, and experts are now hopeful that Scotland could be a good home for the insect. (Dutch elm disease does exist in Scotland, but the nation also has a good amount of disease-resistant Wych elms.)

If a breeding colony is confirmed, the white-letter hairstreak will bump Scotland’s number of butterfly species that live and breed in the country up to 34. “We don’t have many butterfly species in Scotland so one more is very nice to have,” Paul Kirkland, director of Butterfly Conservation Scotland, said in a statement.

Prior to 1884, the only confirmed sighting of a white-letter hairstreak in Scotland was in 1859. However, the insect’s newfound presence in Scotland comes at a cost: The UK’s butterflies are moving north due to climate change, and the white-letter hairstreak’s arrival is “almost certainly due to the warming climate,” Kirkland said.

[h/t The Guardian]

Original image
Antti Lipponen, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
arrow
infographics
Witness a Century of Rising Earth Temperatures
Original image
Antti Lipponen, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Predictions about the future tend to dominate the conversation surrounding global warming. You may have heard that Arctic temperatures are expected to increase by 7° to 13°F over the next century, or that sea levels could rise by as much as 6 feet in that same amount of time. But you don't need to look ahead to see the impact of climate change on our planet—just take glance at the temperature data from the last 100 years.

Co.Design recently spotlighted an animated infographic designed by Antti Lipponen, a senior scientist at the Finnish Meteorological Institute. The visualization pulls from NASA data to illustrate the dramatic ascent of average global temperatures between 1900 and 2016.

The circular graph includes one bar for each of the world’s countries. Their colors shift from blue to red, with red representing years far hotter than that nation’s average. As the century progresses, the graphic unfurls into a deep red sunburst of temperature anomalies which acts as both a stunning piece of art and a sobering educational tool.

Lipponen isn't the first scientist to use climate statistics to make a visually captivating statement. Check out Jill Pelto's "Glaciogenic Art," which combines hard data with watercolors of natural landscapes in peril.

[h/t Co.Design]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios