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Spirals, waves ... stripes?

Updated: Sep 10, 2021

Spirals, waves, stripes, tessellations, hexagons, semi-circles, teardrops, rings, fractals, hearts, ovoids … these are all different shapes and patterns within nature’s awe-inspiring designs. Have you stopped to consider the beauty of a spiralling fern, hexagons in spiders webs, wave patterns on shells, fractals through a sliced cabbage, hearts joined to make clover leaves, perfect semi-circular rainbows, tessellations in dried cracked mud or teardrop shaped rose petals?

Our planet is incredible. Young Climate Warriors are combatting climate change to help maintain our planet and its ecosystems, that in turn support an enormous diversity and complexity of life. Can you look closely this summer and see how many shapes and patterns you can see in nature – when you start looking they are everywhere! HIT THE RED BUTTON and send us photos of patterns you find – or create!

You could also try creating your own patterns, using natural objects – stones, pine cones, chalk, leaves, shells, twigs. If you’re looking for inspiration you could turn to these stunning creations by Andy Goldsworthy, a British sculptor. In this BBC bitesize video he demonstrates how he creates temporary artwork with chalk on slate, and shows how to create a rain-shadow image.

Can you think of any patterns in nature that are also helpful to scientists? Fingerprints identify unique human beings, just like zebras or giraffes can be individually recognised by their markings. You’ve probably heard that you can learn about the age of a tree from the number of rings in its trunk. Did you know that scientists can find out how much carbon dioxide there was in our atmosphere millions of years ago by looking at ice core rings?

Scientists who study the Earth’s past climates are called paleoclimatologists – would you like to become one?They look for clues about our planet’s climate history by studying ice cores. Each season’s snowfall has slightly different properties – so the layers of ice can be read like the rings of a tree, to count the age of the ice. When ice is formed it holds bubbles of ‘atmosphere’ at the time – which can show how much dust, ash or pollen, as well as how much carbon dioxide was in the atmosphere in that particular year. The oldest ice cores are 800,000 years old, and show that carbon dioxide levels are higher now than at any time throughout those 800,000 years. You may be interested in watching this Ice Core Scientist, part of the British Antarctic Survey team,explaining how they drill for ice cores.

Patterns can also help us visualise or picture how our climate has changed since the industrial revolution. Professor Ed Hawkins, of the University of Reading in the UK, came up with the idea of using an image called the ‘warming stripes’ to illustrate temperatures changing over time. Each coloured stripe represents the average temperature for a year since 1850 – blue for cooler temperatures and red for hotter years. Can you guess what the pattern looks like?You can find out if you’re right and see the ‘warming stripes’ for the whole world, or different areas like the UK or the Arctic. Here’s a one minute clip from a BBC meteorologist explaining the ‘warming stripes’.

There are even patterns in nature in motion … Skimming stones, bubbles from fish, raindrops slashing … keep looking! Don’t forget to HIT THE RED BUTTON and send us your photos so we can share them with your Young Climate Warriors team!

Have a lovely summer and we look forward to undertaking more fun, climate-change-busting challenges with you in the Autumn.


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