While most of his days are spent unraveling the intricacies of weather patterns and atmospheric dynamics, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences Dale Durran has embraced metal work to express his passion for the natural world. With a curiosity that reaches far beyond the confines of the laboratory, Durran crafts works that infuse the interplay of science and creativity into each unique piece.

Dale Durran's metal sculpture featuring water drops lit by LED in the center.
Dale Durran’s “Enso Lantern” sculpture

At the University of Washington, Durran’s research spans several areas in atmospheric science including predictability, sub-seasonal forecasting using machine learning, mountain meteorology, atmospheric waves and numerical methods for the simulation of atmospheric flows. Most recently he has been exploring how deep learning can change our current paradigm for numerical weather prediction.  

Durran’s artwork is not a direct interpretation of the science he’s focused on, but it is certainly influenced by his research. “The artistic possibilities of metal, that luminous backbone of modern civilization, have always intrigued me,” he explained. “I strive to create pieces abstracting natural forms, motions or social interactions.”

Likewise, his craft informs his knowledge of processes in the natural world as he crafts with materials and tools like stainless steel, plasma cutters and tig welders. His works incorporate movement with wood, water and light.

“I have two “Emergent Behavior” pieces,” said Durran. “The idea with Emergent Behavior is that random processes can appear to produce order when you look at them.”

A contemplative work best viewed in the dark sits outside Dale’s home in North Seattle — “Enso lantern” features wiggling water drops dancing within an illuminated circle of light. Meditative, undulating LED lights illuminate upright bassoon rods in “Symphony for 32 Bassoons,” an Emergent Behavior piece that Durran crafted in concert with his two brothers — one a professor of bassoon at Penn State, the other an electrical engineer.

Bassoon rods illuminated by LED lights in random patterns against a metal backdrop
Durran’s “Symphony for 32 Bassoons”

“The idea was to have something that mimics the aurora,” Durran explained.

Seamlessly weaving together art and science, Durran’s mesmerizing and painstakingly crafted metal sculptures not only captivate the eye but also reflect the delicate harmony between humanity and the environment.

You can see more of Durran’s work and learn about his processes on his website.