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As President Obama noted in a speech last week, the biggest change that National Geographic has had to make to its atlases since the fall of the Soviet Union has been the change in the Arctic Ocean.  Climate change has caused a dramatic reduction in the amount of ice covering the region over a relatively short period of time.  Accordingly, National Geographic has had to keep making adjustments in each new edition of its atlas.

Just watch this gif to see how the depiction of the Arctic Ocean has changed in these atlases from 1999 to 2014:

The change in Arctic ice, as seen in National Geographic atlases between 1999 and 2014 (via National Geographic, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/08/150803-arctic-ice-obama-climate-nation-science/)

The retreat of the ice is moving at the alarming pace of 12 percent per decade, according to National Geographic, and it even appears to be speeding up in recent years.  The acceleration is caused by a certain feedback loop: ice becomes thinner, so more water is absorbed by the ocean, warming the water and melting more ice.  As the ice melts further, it will eventually cause ocean levels to rise around the world.  Island nations such as Tuvalu have been particularly concerned about their survival over the next several decades.

You can read thousands of words about the effects of climate change, but it won’t have the same effect as viewing a single map (or even better, a gif of several maps to show the change over time).  Watching the Arctic icecap vanish is a shocking sight, and very disheartening for those struggling to slow down and reverse the trends of climate change.   Nearly all scientists agree that warming temperatures and increasingly erratic weather patterns have potentially catastrophic consequences for the earth as a whole.  Let’s hope it’s not too late to prevent the worst of it.

Source: National Geographic

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