Before you do anything else, you must watch this magnificent storytelling of the annual flooding from the Mendenhall Glacier…

Melting Ice & Snow

MELTING ICE & SNOW

Melting glaciers and ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica have a direct and profound impact on sea-level rise.

Greenland’s ice sheet is losing mass about six times faster than it was a few decades ago. In the past fifty years, the sheet has already shed enough to add about half an inch of water to the world’s oceans. In just this last summer’s heat wave, meltwater — equivalent to over 4 million swimming pools — sloughed into the ocean in a single day.

Antarctica, that frigid expanse of land at the Earth’s Southern pole, is covered by 90% of the planet’s ice. If all of its ice were to melt, sea levels would rise by 190 feet. It is melting at an alarming rate, with the rate of thaw tripling over the past decade and losing 2.71 trillion tons of ice between 1992 and 2017 with half of these losses occurring in the past five years, shrinking to record low levels

Melting ice is not limited to the poles and is happening around the world: Alaska’s sea ice has all melted; the glaciers of the Himalayas are melting twice as fast as they were in 2000; the Patagonian icefields are a fraction of their previous size. Iceland marked its first loss of a glacier to climate change with a funeral, and the Swiss followed suit with a funeral for the Pizol glacier in the Alps. 

And, then there is our own ice melt.

Diana Six, an entomologist at the U. of Montana, recently returned from a trip to Montana’s Glacial National Park, where the 97/98˚heat had decimated the ice. In despair, she said, “I don’t think people realize that climate change is not just a loss of ice. It’s all the stuff that’s dependent on it. The water is too warm for the fish. At some of the lower elevations, glacier lilies were shriveled, lupins didn’t even open. The flowers should extend for another three weeks but they’re already gone. Any insects or birds that depend upon them, like bees or hummingbirds are in trouble, their food is gone. Bird populations have just baked. There have been total losses of a lot of baby birds this year. You see these ospreys and eagles sitting on top of the trees in their nests and those young, they just can’t take the heat.”

CURRENT NEWS

Why Warmer Winters Won’t Make You Happier, According to Psychologists

By Jeva Lange 01/29/24
Does everything actually suck right now? Or is it just the end of January? It can be difficult to tell. We’re officially in the thick of what Americans consider to be the worst time of…
Read more

Antarctica is warming faster than anywhere else on Earth. Are tourists making it worse?

By Christopher Muther 01/05/24
Boston resident Stephen Monk recalls the sound vividly. He was kayaking with fellow passengers while on a cruise to Antarctica. Suddenly, the instructor told the group to stop, remain still, and listen.
Read more

This Antarctic Octopus Has a Warning About Rising Sea Levels

By Delger Erdenesanaa 12/21/23
Scientists have long wondered whether the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is a ticking time bomb in terms of sea level rise. New evidence from the DNA of a small octopus that lives in the Southern…
Read more

Scientists uncover a surprising phenomenon in the Himalayas that might be slowing the effects of climate change

By Allison Chinchar 12/12/23
Glaciers in the Himalayas are melting rapidly, but a new report showed an astonishing phenomenon in the world’s tallest mountain range could be helping to slow the effects of the global climate crisis.
Read more

Local cooling and drying induced by Himalayan glaciers under global warming

By Franco Salerno and others 12/04/23
Understanding the response of Himalayan glaciers to global warming is vital because of their role as a water source for the Asian subcontinent. However, great uncertainties still exist on the climate drivers of past and…
Read more

New maps show where snowfall is disappearing

By Eric Zerkel 11/25/23
Snowfall is declining globally as temperatures warm because of human-caused climate change, a new analysis and maps from a NOAA climate scientist show.
Read more

Why collapsing glaciers are ruining your beach house plans

By Hayes Brown 11/20/23
In the movie “Superman” (the original 1978 one with Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel and Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor), the plot revolves around a scheme to transform property in California that’s miles…
Read more

Two Studies on Greenland Reveal Ominous Signs for Sea Level Rise

By Delger Erdenesanaa 11/09/23
Greenland’s mountain glaciers and floating ice shelves are melting faster than they were just a few decades ago and becoming destabilized, according to two separate studies published this week.
Read more

Oregon Cascades, Western states losing glaciers, new analysis finds

By Alex Baumhardt 10/29/23
Across the contiguous Western U.S., glaciers are slowly disappearing, according to a new analysis by researchers at Portland State University and the U.S. Geological Survey. The study was published in the journal Earth System Science…
Read more

Antarctica is melting and we all need to adapt, a trio of climate analyses show

By Rebecca Hersher 10/27/23
A trio of new scientific analyses about the loss of ice in Antarctica paint a picture of a continent in trouble. Sea ice is disappearing, gigantic portions of the West Antarctic ice sheet are crumbling…
Read more

Meltdown of West Antarctic Ice Sheet unavoidable, study says

By Gloria Dickie 10/24/23
The West Antarctic Ice Sheet will continue to melt this century regardless of how much the world slashes planet-warming emissions, research from the British Antarctic Survey has found, locking in further sea level rise over…
Read more

Humans have ‘lost control,’ no amount of emission cut will slow down melting of Antarctica ice shelves: Study

By Moohita Garg 10/24/23
The coming decades will likely witness a substantial acceleration in the melting of West Antarctica's ice shelves, even if the world cuts down on planet-warming emissions, warns new research.
Read more

KEY RESOURCES

What Greenland’s melting ice sheet means for you

12/28/23
Recent studies of Greenland’s enormous ice sheet are helping to illuminate our planet’s past and present — in ways that inform our vision of our future. Several of the articles included below are especially engaging…

Hidden Water: The Suicide Basin Outburst Flood

08/10/23
On a sunny day in July 2011, the Mendenhall River in Juneau, Alaska began to flood. The water inundated roads, backyards, and a nearby campground, taking the community by surprise.

Ice Sheets

01/29/22
The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are losing significant amounts of land-based ice as a result of human-caused global warming. Data from NASA's GRACE and GRACE Follow-On satellites show that the land ice sheets in…

Five Facts to Help You Understand Sea Ice

10/20/21
One way that scientists monitor climate change is through the measure of sea ice extent. Sea ice extent is the area of ice that covers the Arctic Ocean at a given time. Sea ice plays…

Climate Change Indicators: Snow and Ice

05/18/21
The Earth’s surface contains many forms of snow and ice, including sea, lake, and river ice; snow cover; glaciers, ice caps, and ice sheets; and frozen ground. Climate change can dramatically alter the Earth’s snow-…

New Study Identifies Mountain Snowpack Most “At-Risk” from Climate Change

03/01/21
CPO-funded scientists theorize why snowpack in coastal regions, the Arctic, and the Western U.S. may be among the most at-risk for premature melt from rising temperatures

Polar Tales: The Future of Ice, Life, and the Arctic (2020)

02/24/21
The Arctic is the ground zero of climate change, and the polar bear is on the front line. Filled with groundbreaking photography that reveals the breathtaking landscapes of the Arctic and the transformations of the…

Antarctica: The Waking Giant (2020)

02/24/21
Winner of three 2020 International Photography Awards and named Photographer of the Year from the Tokyo International Awards, explorer Sebastian Copeland's stunning photography delivers unparalleled access to the least explored continent on Earth and galvanizes…

Rate of mass loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet will exceed Holocene values this century

10/08/20
The Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS) is losing mass at a high rate1. Given the short-term nature of the observational record, it is difficult to assess the historical importance of this mass-loss trend.

Widespread Biological Response to Rapid Warming on the Antarctic Peninsula

10/01/20
First Peninsula-wide assessment of biological sensitivity to recent warming.

The Ice at the End of the World (2019)

03/28/20
A riveting, urgent account of the explorers and scientists racing to understand the rapidly melting ice sheet in Greenland, a dramatic harbinger of climate change.

Operation IceBridge mission

09/10/19
NASA’s Operation IceBridge images Earth's polar ice in unprecedented detail to better understand processes that connect the polar regions with the global climate system.

MORE NEWS

On Endangered Species Day — and Every Day — Here’s How to Save the Animals

By Maggie Dewane   05/20/19  
If you feel compelled to join the efforts but don’t know where to begin, you are not alone. Here’s how to get started.
Read more

It was 84 degrees near the Arctic Ocean this weekend as carbon dioxide hit its highest level in human history

By Jason Samenow   05/14/19  
Over the weekend, the climate system sounded simultaneous alarms. Near the entrance to the Arctic Ocean in northwest Russia, the temperature surged to 84 degrees Fahrenheit (29 Celsius). Meanwhile, the concentration of carbon dioxide in…
Read more

60 days in Iceberg Alley, drilling for marine sediment to decipher Earth’s climate 3 million years ago

By Suzanne OConnell   05/06/19  
Competition is stiff for one of the 30 scientist berths on the JOIDES Resolution research vessel. I’m one of the lucky ones, granted the opportunity to work 12-hour days, seven days a week for 60…
Read more

Antarctic ice loss sextupled since 1970s, study finds

By Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis   01/14/19  
Antarctic glaciers have been melting at an accelerating pace over the past four decades thanks to an influx of warm ocean water — a startling new finding that researchers say could mean sea levels are…
Read more

Andes meltdown: New insights into rapidly retreating glaciers

By Jon Gertner   12/10/18  
The Thwaites Glacier is crumbling into the sea. Now scientists must answer two questions: When will it take the plunge? And can our coastal cities be saved?
Read more

Exclusive photos: A giant iceberg breaks off Antarctica

By Brian Clark Howard   11/08/18  
As the plane approached low over the enormous expanse of white, excited scientists crowded to the windows, cameras in hand. Their instruments had warned them that something special was about to emerge from the bleak…
Read more

As the Antarctic Peninsula heats up, the rules of life there are being ripped apart

By Craig Welch   11/01/18  
Dion Poncet came of age in a place almost no one calls home. He was born on a sailboat in Leith Harbour, an abandoned whaling station on South Georgia island. His father, a French adventurer,…
Read more

Water stuck in Glaciers May Change Sea Level Predictions

By Danielle Torrent Tucker-Stanford   10/24/18  
Researchers have discovered water stored within a glacier in Greenland. The water storage has been a missing component for models aiming to predict how melting glaciers will affect the planet.
Read more

NASA has Discovered Arctic Lakes Bubbling with Methane

By Hannah Osborne   09/13/18  
Last month NASA released footage showing the bubbling Arctic lakes, which are the result of a little known phenomenon called “abrupt thawing.” It occurs when the permafrost—ground that has been frozen for potentially thousands of…
Read more

Sweden’s highest point set to lose title as glacier melts

By Agence France-Presse   08/01/18  
Sweden’s highest peak, a glacier on the southern tip of the Kebnekaise mountain, is melting due to record hot Arctic temperatures and is no longer the nation’s tallest point, scientists said on Wednesday. “I’ve never…
Read more

Rising ground under West Antarctica could prevent ice sheet collapse

By Andrew Freedman   06/21/18  
Previous research has shown that enough ice has already melted to trigger a potentially irreversible melt of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which would sharply increase sea levels worldwide. Now, though, A new study finds…
Read more

Sea level rise due to Antarctic ice melt has ‘tripled over past five years’

By Daisy Dunne   06/13/18  
The rate of sea level rise resulting from the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet has tripled over the past five years, according to new research from a global team of scientists.
Read more

Disappearing Arctic sea ice

03/15/18  
Arctic sea ice has not only been shrinking in surface area in recent years, it’s becoming younger and thinner as well. In this animation, where the ice cover almost looks gelatinous as it pulses through…
Read more

In Alaska’s Thawing Permafrost, Humanity’s ‘Library Is on Fire’

01/25/18  
Archaeologists who work in the Arctic, like Anne Jensen, have a metaphor for what is happening there from global warming. The Library of Alexandria was the most famous site for cultural knowledge and history in…
Read more

Without Reliable Snow, Dogsledders Turn to Dryland Racing

By Anna Belle Peevey   12/22/17  
Northern Wisconsin is still a frigid place come winter, but as the state has warmed, the certainty of snow has gradually vanished, leaving the traditional winter dogsledding races frequently canceled for lack of good powder.
Read more

The Larsen C Ice Shelf Collapse Is Just the Beginning—Antarctica Is Melting

By Douglas Fox   06/14/17  
The massive iceberg that broke off the Larsen C Ice Shelf may be a harbinger of a continent-wide collapse that would swamp coastal cities around the world.
Read more

Antarctica turning green as climate change takes hold, says scientific study

By David Reid   05/19/17  
In people’s minds, Antarctica may appear as a bleak white landscape but scientists claim the continent is turning green because of a warming in the climate. A team of British researchers have tested three separate…
Read more

Images of Melt: Earth’s Vanishing Ice

By Stephanie Pappas   11/29/12  
The midnight sun glows off an iceberg in Disko Bay, Greenland. Icebergs calving into the sea are a major source of Greenland's ice loss.
Read more

Melting beauty: The Patagonian icefields

By Kathryn Hansen   07/11/18  
Forests, grasslands, deserts, and mountains are all part of the Patagonian landscape, which spans more than a million square kilometers (about 386,000 square miles) of South America. Toward the western side, expanses of dense, compacted…
Read more

Resilient Local Coral May Help Save Tropical Relatives

By Todd McLeish   10/11/19  
A Rhode Island scientist is co-leading a collaborative effort to determine if New England’s only hard coral species — a variety that can survive bleaching — could provide a solution to the coral bleaching problem…
Read more

I am a diver who documents climate change in the Arctic. And I am running out of time

By Jill Heinerth   10/06/19  
I am grateful for the opportunity to preserve images of this endangered kingdom, but what will happen to the people and animals of the North?
Read more

What Worries Iceland? A World Without Ice. It Is Preparing.

By Liz Alderman   08/09/19  
From the offices of the fishing operation founded by his family two generations ago, Adalsteinn Ingólfsson has watched the massive Vatnajökull glacier shrink year after year. Rising temperatures have already winnowed the types of fish…
Read more

On a journey to Antarctica, a New Orleans chef awakens to the threat of melting ice

By Carolyn Beeler   05/28/19  
Jack Gilmore, 23, had never left the US before he worked on a research vessel as a cook during a two-month expedition to Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica this past winter.
Read more