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New Climate NI Project 24 November 2021

Once upon a time in a heatwave

Once upon a time there was a place called Northern Ireland. Not too big or too small, it was just right as a test bed for exploring the power of stories for communicating climate science. Storytelling can connect with people on a deep level and can move seamlessly from facts and emotions, through to values and positive examples of previous action. This connection using narrative, particularly to examples of previous action, is important for providing people with a sense of agency – an ability to enact change.

“The stories that we tell ourselves about what climate change means, who is responsible for responding to it, and what this response should look like are just as important as the technologies, laws and policies that will usher in a more sustainable world.” (Corner & Clarke, 2017)

Dr. Alan Kennedy–Asser from the University of Bristol will be joining Climate NI for the next year as an embedded researcher funded by the UK Climate Resilience Project to run the project, Once upon a time in a heatwave. Alan is a climate scientist focussing on UK heat extremes, but with an interest in inter–disciplinary research methods, including the use of arts and story in research.

Dr Alan Kennedy-Asser







In Once upon a time in a heatwave, story will be explored in three ways:

  • The use of visual storytelling through interactive figures, infographics and a local climate impacts checkers
  • Narratives based on climate adaptation options, including potential future socio–economic scenarios, shared through the medium of ArcGIS StoryMaps
  • ‘Storyline’ climate analysis to communicate uncertainties in extreme summer heat events both now and in the future

Alan wants to co–design and evaluate stories with agricultural and rural communities in Northern Ireland, exploring how heatwave and drought events such as those in the summers of 2018 and 2021 could change in the future and the impact this might have on these communities. In 2022, Alan will arrange workshops with stakeholder groups and the first stories should be ready in Spring 2022. If you are interested in learning more about this project or would like to be involved in the development of stories, contact Alan at

If researchers can find a way to inspire action through the understanding of the climate risks and adaptation options, they could build connections to other decision makers, researchers and storytellers elsewhere in the land and all live happily (or at least happier) ever after…