• September 26, 2013

Visible Proof of a Warming Planet

Dennis Dimick

This post was originally published in September 2013. We’re resurfacing it as part of our #Throwback series, which gives more love to our favorite posts. Climate change is the subject of the November 2015 special issue of National Geographic.—The Proof Team

Stories often take years to create. This one began seven years ago when, in early 2006, Colorado science and nature photographer Jim Balog came to us with an idea about photographing a melting glacier in Iceland. While we liked the idea, it also occurred to us that this story could be bigger in scope, especially since glaciers worldwide have been melting at an alarming rate. Photographically documenting the shrinking ice globally would be a stark visualization of the changes happening to our climate.

So in the summer and autumn of 2006 Jim traveled to three continents to photograph disappearing glaciers. His images became part of the June 2007 cover story, “The Big Thaw: Ice on the Run, Seas on the Rise.”

The biggest challenge in covering melting ice is to show change, to show difference. You need to photograph a place once to provide a baseline look, then return to the same place, perhaps years later, to see if it looks different. That’s the underlying premise of the October 2013 story “Meltdown,” which includes images of a glacier photographed in 2006 and 2012.

In some cases the ice in the locations Jim shot had shrunk a lot, in others not as much. In all cases, however, there was less ice visible. Simply put, temperatures are going up in places where we photographed glaciers.

Jim’s original 2006 work also created something bigger. In 2007 he started the Extreme Ice Survey to document the loss of ice worldwide. With help from National Geographic technicians, Jim built an array of solar-powered time-lapse cameras and mounted them near glaciers in nearly 30 locations globally. The cameras take one picture an hour for every hour of daylight for a year, and the pictures are assembled into dramatic time-lapse movies that show how glaciers behave over time.

This photographic proof of shrinking glaciers, combined with other examples like rising seas and changing seasons, helps provide evidence that our climate is changing, warming up—and that the world is becoming a very different place.

Dennis Dimick is the executive editor for National Geographic magazine. Follow Dennis on Twitter, Instagram, and Flickr.

You can see more of Jim Balog’s glacier photographs and movies at: http://extremeicesurvey.org. Follow Jim on Twitter at @earthvisiontrst.

There are 18 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. Naeem
    November 5, 2015

    NASA wants to settle people on Mars. So they don’t care about our earth whether it become Mars.

    October 18, 2013

    Todo esto es muy cierto ..yo trabajo en el desierto de Atacama y ya casi es imposible estar los calores pasan sobre lo permitido un con proteccion es insoportable habian unos glaciares el las cupulas de las montañas de la cordillera de lo andes que estaban por ciglos ya no estan …preocupante y a la vez da susto

  3. Herbert Koeppel
    October 10, 2013

    Hi, impressive timelapse.

    In the past 7 years i visited once a year a glacier in one of the national parks of austria.
    In this years i could see massive changes at the glacier mouth, it was shrinking about 250m in these years. No doubt the somers are hotter and the winters does not bring the necessary snow fall for the glacier.

    If you want to see some pictures from this beautiful landscape – feel free to follow the link to the gallery on my website.

    link: http://www.naturfotoworkshop.at/naturfotoworkshop-herbert-koeppel-neue-arbeiten-galerie-projekte-und-prints/naturfotoworkshop-herbet-koeppel-archiv/naturfotoworkshop-%20thezenofseeing-herbert-koeppel-natur%20/naturfotoworkshop-thezenofseeing-herbert-koeppel-ost-tirol-nationalpark-hohe-tauern-schlatenkees-gletscher/naturfotoworkshop-thezenofseeing-herbert-koeppel-ost-tirol-nationalpark-hohe-tauern-schlatenkees-gletscher.html

    greetings from austria

    Herbert Koeppel

  4. Kundan@india
    October 7, 2013

    we are careless and reckless to save our home planet……. we will have to work together irrespective of boundries so that we can keep safe and ecofriendly our home planet for our descendents… our next generation..

    so plz use AC whenever needed, stop immadiately GREEN HOUSE farming because it is converting our home planet as HETER…..

    do more and more plantation ………if not possible from today at least one tree by everyone..

  5. chuck mason
    October 6, 2013

    a data vs megadata. is one descriptive vs the other as predictive?

  6. albert dejarlo
    October 4, 2013

    Unless our Governments focus on this climate change,to unite,humankind will be at the expense of nature.At least,plant a tree not cut,stop using fossil fuels,not promote,and be aware about the global impact of climate change.We must remember the Last Ice Age.

  7. Cynthia Hintz
    October 1, 2013

    I understand that the warming trend ended over 15 years ago.

  8. Eliza robertson
    September 29, 2013

    The fear and ignorance baiting to keep ones fortune must stop. Global warming is real . Man up people.Venice is under water 100 days of the year. New york city flooded last year.

  9. Eliza robertson
    September 29, 2013

    Denial is the king of the coal mine. I am fascinated by the utter ignorance in most of these comments, to justify what even George Bush admiyts is an addiction to oil and energy.This is not the middle ages. Its now and your planet is on fire? Not very good guardians.What do you want to do about it. I am astounded than in the 35 years my parents have been gone we went from yea recycling newpapers to machiavellian burn baby burn planet care. Read the NG article a few years ago about recycling. Imagine where your dangerous electronic garbage goes when you’re done with it? Just saying this protest over global warming is all about Koch Brothers and their wet dreams to be sure Sorry. But I am done with the House of Representatives holding the country hostage of inanity while we fry like chicken. The fear and ignorance baiting to leep ones foturne must stop. ooop did you hit my KEY ISSUE! Lovely Iceberg.

  10. Robert Jones
    September 29, 2013

    I don’t really know what they think they’re proving. Maybe their next article will be titled, “Proof: The sun is hot!”

    This planet was practically an ice cube once. It was also once a rotating ball of oozing lava. So, obviously the earth’s temperature changes naturally – severely and drastically – because it did so long before humans existed.

    Oh, yes, we are to believe it’s different this time. Because of humans! You are so many, you humans.

    If humans did not exist, it’s not like there would still be billions other living creatures just sitting there breathing. If humans did not exist the world would be completely empty of all life. Because we are the everything.

    Oh and by the way the only way to solve this is by taking more money from you at threat of violence. But that’s not really the whole reason for it or anything. SCIENCE SCIENCE SCIENCE

  11. judy
    September 29, 2013

    wow. very interesting but also very scary.

  12. Dario P
    September 29, 2013

    I dont see a planet, I see a glacier. Dum?

  13. Fabio Vera
    September 29, 2013

    Siento una terrible impotencia.
    Me aterroriza la inconsciencia.
    Y hago mio éste pensamiento:Ice is the canary in the global coal mine.” —James Balog

  14. Marijana
    September 29, 2013

    It is so scary and concerning! The problem with this world is that intelligent people are full of doubts and the less intelligent once have bomb-proof confidence. Hence, if you care about the environment you’re ridiculed. Unfortunately, primitivism+ ignorance + greed are the winning combination. God be with us!

  15. Lorraine
    September 29, 2013

    Dan, it was expected to be up this year. If you look at a graph, up from last year still means down by heaps and bounds from 10 years ago. Google a graph. Saying it is up from last year is meaningless in the big picture. Example: if you had 100 dollars 10 days ago, then were down to 1 dollar a week ago, but then another dollar in your coat pocket today – well, you’re up 100% since yesterday! Yahoo!

  16. Dan
    September 27, 2013

    There is 65% more ice this year in the Artic than there was last year. Also, there was the, “Little Ice Age” in Europe in the Middle Ages, the world warmed then, but man had nothing to do with it. You would have been an activist then too, right? And, you would have been wrong.

  17. Wes Cook
    September 27, 2013

    If there is a ” warming” as you claim then let us celebrate because a warming is more supportive of life than an ice age.

  18. Albert Shuxiang Li
    September 27, 2013

    Have you take two pictures of the antarctic sea ice last year and this year? For the true statistical significance, two pictures are not that meaningful as artists may argue. I like those pictures. I hope he may continue to take them for a long, long time.

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