Colours of climate

Published: Monday 30 November -0001

A painting of the Isle of Wigh A geologist-turned art collector believes paintings, water colours and prints can help us better understand the threat of rising sea levels and climate change. Robin McInnes, who heads a UK consultancy, Coastal and Geotechnical Services, had amassed quite a collection of paintings, prints and etchings of coastlines of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight between 1995 and 2007, when he ran the island's coastline management strategy.

The geologist analysed images from the 1770s to the 1920s. "Many artists returned to the same spot. Using art in this way helps us understand how people who live on coasts adapt to changing conditions over the centuries; in some locations this has involved retreating to higher or more stable ground further back from the coast," he said. McInnes recently presented his findings at a coastal engineering conference in Venice, where he learned of similar research that used Caravaggio's paintings to assess historic water levels in the sinking Italian city.

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