Annals of global warming: Time to change maps of Arctic ice

August 11, 2015

National Geographic Society reminded us they’ve had to change maps of the arctic.

National Geographic Society composed this GIF to compare their maps over past 16 years: A GIF of National Geographic atlases from 1999 through 2014 shows how Arctic ice has melted over time.

National Geographic Society composed this GIF to compare their maps over past 16 years: A GIF of National Geographic atlases from 1999 through 2014 shows how Arctic ice has melted over time.

President Barack Obama noted the change in his announcement of U.S. actions to fight climate change. National Geo added details beyond what the president said.

As the ocean heats up due to global warming, Arctic sea ice has been locked in a downward spiral. Since the late 1970s, the ice has retreated by 12 percent per decade, worsening after 2007, according to NASA. May 2014 represented the third lowest extent of sea ice during that month in the satellite record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).

Ice loss is accelerated in the Arctic because of a phenomenon known as the feedback loop: Thin ice is less reflective than thick ice, allowing more sunlight to be absorbed by the ocean, which in turn weakens the ice and warms the ocean even more, NASA says.

Because thinner ice is flatter, it allows melt ponds to accumulate on the surface, reducing the reflectiveness of the ice and absorbing more heat. (See pictures of our melting world in National Geographic magazine.)

“You hear reports all the time in the media about this,” Valdés said. “Until you have a hard-copy map in your hand, the message doesn’t really hit home.”

(More at National Geo’s site.)

At the last edition of the National Geographic Atlas, a video described why and how changes were made.

We used to think the old Earth was so massive, little could humans do to change it. While it’s probably still true the rock will survive after humans are extinct, we now know we can foul our nest enough to make it uncomfortable, or impossible for our species to stay here.

Global warming is changing the planet. Maps must be changed to show the new face.

Have we acted soon enough, and hard enough to save space for humans to live?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Chris Tackett on Twitter.


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