What old paintings of sunsets can tell us about the effects of volcanic eruptions on the environment.

October 1, 2007 at 10:53 am (amazing things, art, environment, neat things) ()

A group of researchers at the National Observatory of Athens is studying centuries-old paintings of sunsets to glean new insight about the ways in which volcanic eruptions impact climate.

The team found 181 artists who had painted sunsets between 1500 and 1900. The 554 pictures included works by Rubens, Rembrandt, Gainsborough and Hogarth. They used a computer to work out the relative amounts of red and green in each picture, along the horizon. Sunlight scattered by airborne particles appears more red than green, so the reddest sunsets indicate the dirtiest skies. The researchers found most pictures with the highest red/green ratios were painted in the three years following a documented eruption. There were 54 of these “volcanic sunset” pictures.

Prof Zerefos said five artists had lived at the right time to paint sunsets before, during and after eruptions. Turner witnessed the effects of three: Tambora in 1815; Babuyan, Philippines in 1831, and Cosiguina, Nicaragua, in 1835. In each case the scientists found a sharp change in the red/green ratio of the sunsets he painted up to three years afterwards.

So cool!

Via Boing Boing.

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