Wet, wetter; dry, drier: U.S. oceanographer has hit with climate-change haiku

Wed Jan 15, 2014 9:12pm EST

1 of 2. Oceanographer Gregory Johnson poses for a portrait at his home in Seattle, Washington January 15, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/David Ryder

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(Reuters) - An American oceanographer who helped write an international report on climate change has condensed several of its key findings - such as how choices made today may shape the future world - into a collection of succinct poems in the Haiku style.

The poems came to Gregory Johnson, a 20-year veteran of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as he pored over an executive summary of "Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis," while holed up in his Seattle home on a recent weekend with the flu, he said.

"I thought that if I tried distilling these ideas into haiku, maybe that would help fix them in my mind," said Johnson, a lead author on the chapter of the report dealing with the effects of global warming on oceans. "This was not intended for anything but my own personal consumption."

After penning the poems and painting watercolors accompanying each of them, Johnson, heartened by feedback from friends and family, agreed to publish them on the website of the Sightline Institute, a Seattle-based environmental policy think-tank.

Several of the haikus highlight the report's findings that near-term reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would reduce future warming, but that, as one poem concludes, "rising seas certain."

Others deal with regional weather patterns that climate change is expected to reinforce.

"Wet will get wetter/ and dry drier, since warm air/ carries more water," reads another of the poems.

Haiku, a sparse Japanese poetry form, consists of three lines of five, seven and five syllables respectively.

Johnson emphasizes that the haikus represent his own personal views and not those of NOAA or the international team of scientists responsible for the report. He was not paid for the poems' publication, he said.

If the haikus get more people engaged in climate change issues, he said, that would be reward enough.

"If I could steer a few people to look at the official summary (of the report) that would be lovely," he said.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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