Penguins and Climate Change

When I began my this project I started looking at some basic facts about Penguins and jotted them down on a large sheet. Visualising facts helps me to remember them. However, none of this research involves climate change.

Now I know more about climate change I need to begin to look at the effect on Penguins. I want to focus on Antarctica where there are only two species of the bird; the Emperor and the Adelie. This will ensure that my information graphic will remain concise.

Putting restrictions in place means that I will be forced to focus on small areas of information, which will hopefully make a more pleasing and understandable design. So, what are my restrictions?

  • Keeping the area local to Antarctica
  • Using only two species of Penguin (the Emperor, the Adelie)

Penguins and Climate Change

The research I have already conducted on Antarctica has clearly indicated that it has been affected in more ways than one. So how does this affect it’s wildlife?

The Antarctic Peninsular (shown below) is a good place to start looking at how climate has affected penguins as there is already evidence of entire Emperor colonies being wiped out. Dion island off the West coast of the peninsular was home to a small colony discovered in 1948 consisting of just 150 breeding pairs and until the 70′s seemed stable but in 1999 there were just 20 pairs and in 2009 they were gone. Data collected by a station roughly 25 miles away suggests that the air temperature in this area has increased dramatically as well as the sea ice developing later and receding much more rapidly. Information published in 2007 from the Journal of Geophysical Research found that between 1979 and 2004 in this region, sea ice began advancing about 54 days later and retreating 31 days earlier although this trend does not continue throughout the entire continent. If the sea ice develops late and melts early it often means that the breeding cycle isn’t fully completed. Emperor chicks have to lose their down before they can swim, if the ice which they grow up on disappears the chicks will drown.


In the journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2009, the study found a 36% chance that shrinking Antarctic sea ice could cause emperor penguin populations to drop by 95% or more by 2100.

Stephanie Jenouvier a researcher from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Centre has recorded 3,000 Emperor breeding pairs in Terre Adelie but believes that this could drop to roughly 500 – 600 breeding pairs by 2100.

An article from 2009 called An Emperor Penguin Population Estimate: The First Global Synoptic Survey of a Species from Space, discusses what they believe the current population to be. The researchers used various methods to find this out from the air.  They describe finding 4 new colonies and confirming 3 previously believed to exist bringing the total to 46 total Emperor colonies that are mapped below.

Colony Positions

From this image it is clear to see that the Antarctic Peninsular is home to very fe emperor colonies and this is where climate change appears to be affecting the most.

‘We estimated the breeding population of emperor penguins at each colony during 2009 and provide a population estimate of ~238,000 breeding pairs (compared with the last previously published count of 135,000–175,000 pairs). Based on published values of the relationship between breeders and non-breeders, this translates to a total population of ~595,000 adult birds’. From this it appears that the populations have risen but this could just be to do with the technology that has been used.

Below, each colony has been mapped by size. Each circle’s size determines the number of breeding pairs in each location.


The penguins are not only being affected directly but also their food. They eat krill from the ocean but with the temperatures rising at an alarming rate the numbers of the krill are declining also, a study shows that the numbers have declined by 80& since the 1970′s. With less food to eat penguins will most definitely be finding it much harder to feed themselves and of course their chicks. ‘Warmer air and sea surface temperatures in the Antarctic reduce the amount of ice in the sea. This, in turn, leads to smaller populations of krill, a shrimp-like crustacean that is a staple of the emperor penguin’s diet. With less food to eat, emperor penguins die.’ - National Geographic – Penguin Decline in Antarctica Linked With Climate Change

National Geographic released back in 2001 mentions that penguin population has declines by 50% in 50 years. In the 80′s there was evidence to suggest that the population number were falling but it is only in recent years that we have discovered that this is an affect of a change in the normal climate.

Penguin Science - ‘As shown in this graph (data from Barbraud & Weimirskirch 2001), the Pt. Géologie colony began a sudden decline in the mid-1970s and has since failed to recover, probably due to warming winter temperatures that have resulted in thinner fast ice on which they breed. The strong Antarctic winds have thus been able to blow the ice away before the chicks were ready to fledge. It is this loss of chicks that has prevented the colony’s recovery.’



This is the trend of an Adélie Penguin colony at the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula (see map below; data from Bill Fraser in Ducklow et al. 2007). It is located at the extreme northern (warm) edge of where this species occurs on Earth. The air temperature in this area has been warming rapidly (several degrees in the last 50 years), resulting in sea ice failing to form during winter and spring. Because Adélie Penguins are especially adapted to the cold conditions associated with sea ice and do not compete favorably with other penguins which are less adapted to the cold, the overall population has been declining at this and nearby colonies, and any young produced have chosen to nest farther south where sea ice remains. Eventually, Adélie Penguin colonies in this area will disappear, leaving only nest stones and mummies behind. Other species of penguins (such as Chinstrap penguins), if fisheries do not deplete their prey, may move in to replace the Adélies. If global warming begins to influence the more southern reaches of the Antarctic continent, then the entire world’s population of Adélie Penguins could be at risk.


Climate Change

‘If all the ice melted’ really got me to begin thinking about the effect of climate change and what would happen to the whole world as a result.

Climate change is a huge issue in modern day society and this was clarified when I typed ‘Climate Change’ into the Google search engine. Thousands of links came up instantly, now it’s impossible to view everyone but I have began to look through a number sites.

Climate Change

Met Office

From these screen shots it’s clear to see that there is so much information on the effects and how to help resolve climate change and every day there is new information on the same sites.

Firstly, I need to find out what climate change is.

Climate change is a large-scale, long-term shift in the planet’s weather patterns or average temperatures.

So, how is this effecting the Antarctic?

In 2007 NASA released some beautiful images on Antarctica, they’re said to be true to colour and the most accurate to date. The map has been made by 1000 Landsat photographs being stitched together to create an interactive image where you can move around the continent, zoom in and out. The video below is a short introduction and background to the image but does show a difference in ice coverage between 1988 and 2002.

Video - NASA Landsat of Antarctica

Map - Landsat Map

This image is taken from the video above. It shows the decrease in sea ice over a period of time.


Below is a map of Antarctica’s land mass without sea ice. It doesn’t particularly have anything to with climate change but it is a beautiful map of the land. The colours indicate the height from sea level revealing a series of mountain ranges and planes as well as huge lakes and rivers.


Land mass

My natural hypothesis about what is happening to sea ice was that it is melting and decreasing, partly to do with what news paper and researchers are telling us but on discovering this it seems that it is the other way around.

According to NASA September 2013 the sea ice surrounding the Antarctic reached it’s annual peak, but instead of it being lower than in previous years it appears that the amount of ice is the highest ever recorded.

URL Earth Observatory

Ice map

Graph explaining sea ice change

On further investigation it appears that Antarctica’s sea ice is increasing by 1% every decade like in the Ross Sea although some areas such as Bellingshausen have been decreasing. Antarctica’s sea ice fluctuates from year to year so although some areas are thriving others are receding. The chart below shows the average sea ice of each years summer and winter.

Earth Observatory NASA

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On this web page there is also a series of images showing the change in ice so you can see the difference from year to year.

September 1999/February 2000



September 2004/February 2005



September 2010/February 2011



September 2012/February 2013


It is clear that there is no uniform in the shape and size that the ice forms although the visible difference between the Ross Sea and Bellingshausen Sea is apparent.

In most cases climate change often is said to warm the atmosphere, so why is the sea ice in Antarctica increasing?

According to an article on Universe Today the excess sea ice is due to an increase in snow fall and rainfall along with more fresh water. Fresh water is cooler and less dense that the saltier water below so with this the ice is melting much slower and increasing more rapidly. All of these factors are to do with global warming.

When sea ice melts there is little change to the sea levels. However, when land ice melt (glaciers) it increases the earths sea levels massively and this is the problem. Although there appears to be more sea ice this does not say whether the land ice has changed at all.

Another article from Universe Today has said that Antarctica’s ice shelves are being ‘eaten away’ by a warmer ocean, due to climate change. NASA have gathered data by using an ice watching satellite that pictures the ice disappearing from the western shores. This is because the sea has warmed quicker than the air above and therefore the currents are melting the shelves from below. From October 2005 to 2008, 20 of the 54 Antarctic ice shelves have decreased in thickness.

Ice Sleves

‘Climate and atmospheric history of the past 420,000 years from the Vostok ice core, Antarctica’ is an article written in 1999 describing what is happening to Antarctic ice.


Research Development


Unfortunately my primary source has not been in contact again and so I have began to look into secondary research which I can use for my info graphic. The thought of being able to have exclusive primary research was extremely exciting and naturally with the lack of communication and change of mind this has dis-heartened me and with us being so far into the project I feel that it’s too late to rely on finding someone else who would be willing to work with me.

However, I have been looking to find some secondary data and whilst I was doing this I found an interactive info graphic that is great. It’s called ‘If all the melted’ and allows the viewer to click on continents to see how the coastline will change once the ice melts, also a small amount of information comes up alongside the image. This ties in well to my idea, which is to create an info graphic about climate change using penguins as it’s focus and so melting ice is a huge part of this.

If all the ice melted




It’s really scary to see what can happen, it’s something reading it but actually being able to see the effects opens your eyes.

I think that this info-graphic is extremely effective. It allows the viewer to explore the design and although the amount of typed up fact is very little it’s still hard hitting and easily understandable.

This was found at –


Simple Grids

I’ve decided to take a look at simple design grids as a basis to begin my digital publication for Ipad. The purpose of this is to clearly discuss my journey through the Tools and Systems project. It will be made using Adobe InDesign which I am familiar with as I have done other projects using this software but I wouldn’t say that I am not particularly skilled. I have a basic idea on how to use InDesign and enjoy using it, but need to develop my skills and understanding.

Before I start on creating this and designing the outcome I want to look into basic grids to understand how to successfully structure an article.

I have just read an online zine called ‘Design Grids are Not Mathematical Grids’ by Andrew Maher ( which has given me some initial understanding to how grids in design work.

The zine talks about the design process’ that he uses to create grids in a step by step way. The process was suggested by Josef Muller-Brockmann, who I am going to look at further to see whether they have anymore useful process’.

These steps are;

  1. Define the format (size of the page)
  2. Define the type area (where all the words are going to go)
  3. Choose a font
  4. Test test test
  5. Redefine the type area
  6. Decide how many units you want your grid to be
  7. Create divisions
  8. Apply grid

This is confusing and I don’t know whether this method will work for me but it’s a good start in understanding what I need to do.

Choosing the type area

This part helped me understand on how to begin making a grid by choosing the type area and then how to decide what column size to use. This part was really interesting and has given me a basis in which to start.


Toward the end there are a number of examples where grids have been used. These examples both follow the same structure but both are entirely different from one another. I believe that this is valuable information, just because the grid is the same the design doesn’t have to be, and even simple, uncomplicated grids can create exciting outcomes.

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The zine is very simple stuff and things that I have already learnt so it’s important that I look in other places for information and help to further my understanding and ensure that I use them correctly and inventively.

“ The grid system is an aid, not a guarantee. It permits a number of possible uses and each designer can look for a solution appropriate to his personal style. But one must learn how to use the grid; it is an art that requires practice. ” - Josef Müller-Brockmann

The Grid System -

I’ve just discovered this website and think that it is really interesting how you can view the site with and without it grid. It’s great seeing the skeleton of a publication live and how important it really is.

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Reflection – Task One

I previously discussed my presentation and how I felt it went, I spoke about how I rushed through it and went off point at times which has been clarified in Matts feedback. He also gave me points on how I can improve my blog by picking out flaws and leaving constructive comments. Things that stood …



Ok, so I’ve just done my presentation and personally I think it went terribly. Never before have I done it and my nerves got the better of me, I basically ended up talking really fast about how much I like penguins but then again I did get across what I am trying to do and …


Counting Sheep/Counting Sleep

We were given a task in groups to find data on a subject. Our subject was ‘Sleeping patterns of a student’.

We began by going around the classroom and asking fellow students on an average night how many hours sleep they got, the data was recorded and then the ideas started to come. The group talked about what things represented sleep such as the letter ‘Z’, pillows and clouds but we settle on sheep as the best option, it’s more fun and we could have fun making them.

After buying two huge bags of cotton wool balls we got to work on making our sheep. Each total was worked out as a percentage and each sheep was made out of that many balls, e.g., 1%, 1 ball… The smallest was in fact 1 ball and the largest 70.





Originally we wanted to lay them outside on the grass as if they were in a field but this being England it hammered it down and had to resort to the grubby carpet in the hallway!


This was then made into a graph…


Group Work

This mini brief had a very restricted time frame and I think if I were to do it on my own the out come wouldn’t have been so inventive. I found that for a task such as this one working in a group speeded up the process. All of us contributed ideas and thoughts on the subject which meant that we had our idea relatively quickly and could set to work on getting the materials and graph made.

The Seven Deadly Sins

Today we looked into how people visualise data in a clear way to tell a story by methods such as bar charts, scatter graphs, pie charts, cartography and mind maps. From this session it’s clear to see that this has been a fundamental way of communicating since cave men used imagery to visualise their huts. …