Thermo-Interactive Art

Visualizing the power of extreme temperatures, and how to get ready

Heatwaves, like art, can be most impactful when crossing critical thresholds that trigger abrupt change. Yet most people and organizations remain insufficiently aware of the severe threat posed by heatwaves, probably in part because risk communication about extreme temperatures has been dominated by conventional approaches that have failed to inspire.

We aim to harness the power of creative communications to manage the serious risk of extreme temperatures, by developing a new approach to advocacy on extreme temperatures: ThermoChromic Art.

Recent developments in chemical engineering have enabled the creation of “thermochromic pigment”: paint that changes its color attributes when exposed to changing temperature (for example: going from black to transparent, or from red to yellow). In close collaboration with many partners, the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre is leading an initial exploration of thermochromic approaches to climate risk communication through ThermoChromic Art.

–   A thermochromic cartoon with a skeptical fish thinking “Maybe a few degrees warmer won’t be that bad”: when exposed to heat, the expression of the fish changes to surprise+horror, as dead fish appear floating (see photo above).

–     Covid masks that seems black. Exposed to heat from human exhalation it reveals “Inspire or Expire”.

Remarkably, our first ThermoChromic Art creations for COP26 were so well received that they were featured in one of the world’s leading contemporary art museums, the Tate Modern (see tweet).

ThermoCromic Art!

ThermoCromic Art!

About 70 masters students from the new Climate School at Columbia University joined forces with team, including collaborating artists published in The New Yorker magazine, to collaboratively design and deliver innovative communication tools enriched with thermochromic pigment. This event reaffirmed our determination to develop and consolidate “ThermoChromic Art” as a new, exciting, awe-inspiring medium to promote heatwave awareness and action.

ChromicArt for the Climate

We have created a set of more than 20 experimental communication products that take advantage of the unique features of thermochromic pigment. Upcoming concepts range from murals to variations on memes, and from batik art to heat-activated QR codes to address increases in gender violence during extreme temperature events. This webpage will compile and share additional works as they become available. Stay tuned for ThermoChromic Art at COP27 in Egypt.

The aspiration is to support future engagements with a diverse range of partners, stimulating the senses and inspiring new ideas for heatwave-related advocacy, campaigns, enrichment of events, and beyond.


The Climate Centre’s ThermoChromic Art explorations were made possible with support from the Adrienne Arsht – Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center and from ENBEL (a EU funded project entitled ‘Enhancing Belmont Research Action to support EU policy making on climate change and health’).

Additional support was kindly offered by the British Academy and the Lloyd’s Register Foundation. This exploration is being coordinated by Pablo Suarez, with creative contributions from A.J. O’Neill, Andrea Arroyo, Eugenia Rojo, Felipe “Feggo” Galindo, Hameed “Ham” Khan, Janot Mendler de Suarez, Kendra Allenby, Leah Lovett, Nico Cassinelli, Pat Byrnes,  Pooja Tilvawala, Rebeka Ryvola, Tjiplies Pudji Lestari, and Tony Sugiarta.

Additional support was kindly offered by the British Academy, the Lloyd’s Register Foundation, and The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London (UCL CASA)

COP26 Glasgow

Two of our first co-creations were shared at the UNFCCC COP26 in Glasgow, and are featured in the first 40 seconds of this video