In yet another sobering sign that climate change is drastically altering our planet, National Geographic has updated its "Atlas of the World" in what it calls "one of the most striking changes in the publication's history."
The 10th edition of the atlas now features a much smaller Arctic ice sheet. The GIF below shows the progressive changes between 1999 and 2014 as global warming has led to an uptick in melting sea ice. The alterations are sobering.
In an article about the changes to the atlas, National Geographic's Christine Dell'Amore wrote:
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.
The far less icy atlas comes on the heels of some other horrifying milestones caused by climate change. Researchers announced earlier this week that the world's glaciers are melting at the fastest rate since record-keeping began more than 120 years ago. Scientists also observed the lowest maximum ice extent on record earlier this year.
All of that lost ice needs to go somewhere, and the world may very well have to deal with sea level rise approaching 10 feet in the next 50 years, according to former top NASA scientist Dr. James Hansen.
President Barack Obama noted earlier this week that the difference reflects "the biggest change in its atlas since the Soviet Union broke apart." He later announced the country's "biggest, most important step" so far on climate change, new standards for power plants that call for a 32 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
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