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Owen Gildersleeve: Atmospheric Rivers

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Papercraft illustrator Owen Gildersleeve was approached by NASA to create original artwork for their Earth Science wing at the NASA JPL HQ in Pasadena, CA.

For this piece, Owen worked closely with scientists from the Earth Science team on how to best portray water vapor levels in the West Coast’s Atmospheric River – Concentrated streams of water vapor in the atmosphere that have been likened to rivers in the sky. They account for 90% of the global water vapor transport and on average 30% to 50% of the West Coast’s annual precipitation comes from a few atmospheric rivers each year.

The final artwork features 15 layers of handcut paper that have each been carefully pieced together using pieces of board to add depth and shadow. The artwork depicts the increased water vapor levels towards the centre of the Atmospheric Rivers, as well as the West Coast’s topography, with small symbols relating to the increased areas of snow fall and flooding caused by this phenomenon.

Special shoutout to David Levine at NASA JPL for getting Owen involved with this wonderful project as well as the Earth Science team for all their input and guidance.