Climate Change: Heating Up the Arctic

The Arctic is warming much faster than the rest of the world. Consequences could be tremendous for the global population.

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Arctic sea ice is melting at an alarming pace due to an accelerated temperature increase trend.

Diversity of Climate Change

Climate change may be the most important issue facing the worldwide community today. No longer just an issue of the environment, the threat of climate change faces virtually every facet of global development from worldwide poverty to water access, from agricultural production to energy resources and much more. In the media, we see glaciers collapsing into the ocean, polar bears stranded on floating chunks of sea ice, and increasingly, firsthand accounts of potent storms and flooding born out of sea level rise. However, fundamental to understanding these media depictions is the fact that the Earth as a whole is not just warming, it is warming unevenly.

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Image by Braden Anderson and Andy Thies

 

Northern Warming

Using data from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, we’ve visualized the nature of this uneven warming. The graphic above shows the increase in degrees Celsius as of 2015 by latitude. Though warming has occurred across the globe, a disproportionate amount has occurred north of 60°N towards the North Pole. Here, in the areas surrounding Greenland, Alaska, Canada, and Siberia, is where the most rapid warming on the planet is occurring. This results in significant ice cap melting, loss of habitat for Arctic wildlife, and perhaps most importantly, drastic sea level rise around the world.

Though the fastest warming is occurring in the far north, an advanced rate of warming is also affecting much of the middle latitudes north of the Equator (30°N-60°N). This is especially significant considering this is the region on Earth with the highest population. In addition to rising sea levels, this region may face even more amplified issues involving shortage of vital resources such as water and food as well as an increase of dangerous weather events such as hurricanes and floods.

 

Data visualization produced via Processing 3.0.1 and Adobe Photoshop. Data courtesy of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

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