Saturday, August 27, 2011

Natural thermometers

Yesterday I gave a talk  on communicating with non-scientists about climate change, at the 2011 Stephen Schneider Symposium in Boulder. (My slides from the talk.) Preparing the talk got me thinking about metaphors, images, and ideas that can get across the nature and severity of climate change to people who aren't experts and don't know what to make of numbers and graphs. Today's post will be first in a series on this.

In 2007, the Extreme Ice Survey set up 38 time-lapse cameras on 22 glaciers around the world. These are mostly very cold, remote places, so the cameras are automatic.

Just four years later, the results are astonishing.

Some of the cameras had to be moved, multiple times, as the glacier faces moved miles upstream.  We are talking about colossal rivers of ice that took centuries to form, diminishing and even disappearing completely in the space of a few decades.

Here's a 1-minute video of the Kadin glacier in Alaska, 2007-2010:

AK-01 Columbia Kadin Narrated from Extreme Ice Survey on Vimeo.

Since the 1990s, 95 percent of the world's glaciers are in retreat. Better than any human instrument, they show directly, and radically, the state of planetary warming and the difference just a couple of degrees can make.

Passing through the Denver airport, I saw videos from the Extreme Ice Survey playing on the intra-terminal train platform. What a great way to put this out there for everyone to see!