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Global warming is frighteningly real, and nowhere is it more evident than in the Arctic. In other parts of the world, it seems, it is still possible to bury one’s head in the sand. In the polar regions, where homes built on the once-reliable permafrost have begun to sink and crumble with regularity, the changes in the earth’s climate are both measurable and personal. In other words, if you’re still in doubt about the urgency of the situation, you can go there and see it.
Where you see it first is right on the surface, in the changes that are taking place in the ice. Current models predict that in just 80 years the ice pack will have completely disappeared, meaning that there will be no ice at all in the Arctic during the summertime. Because the permanence of the ice pack is what animals – including humans – indigenous to the region rely upon, this dramatic change will have a major effect on the populations of fish, of polar bears, of birds… and – directly as well as indirectly – on us.
This collaborative art piece is called “Warning Signs.” A grid of 9 mounted photographs show the process of melting that occurs in the Arctic ice pack. Read like lines of text, from left to right and then top to bottom, the images tell the story of the demise of the perfect white reflective surfaces that have comprised the Arctic ground cover for thousands of years, moving from ice to snow to slush to the formation of melt ponds and finally giving way to black ocean. It is a progression from purity to disintegration, an apt metaphor for what we are doing to our earth as we accelerate the process with human waste products. Like street signs, they are intended to convey a message that captures the viewer’s attention.
The snow-covered polar caps we imagine in our mind’s eye are becoming less and less of a reality...
Presence of fresh snow on the sea ice surface greatly increases the reflection of sunlight (albedo of fresh snow is ~85%, and albedo
of bare ice is ~60%)
When it gets warm, what melts first is the snow overlaying sea ice. The meltwater gathers in “melt ponds”, which are much darker than ice
This kind of ice is called “pancake ice”. It is typically formed in stormy seas (common in the Southern Ocean)
Susan Muñoz and Irina Gorodetskaya
One of the first stages of freezing when the ice crystals have coagulated to form a soupy layer on the surface. Grease ice reflects little light, giving the surface a matt appearance
After all the ice melts, we are left with black ocean.... which in turn speeds up the melting of other ice...
This is all ice... Grey grease ice is interlaced with brighter thin ice sheets - the later stage of ice formation
This piece is a collaboration between an American artist, Susan Muñoz, whose work deals with pattern formation in nature, and a Russian scientist, Irina Gorodetskaya, who studies the impact of the reflective nature of ice, known as albedo, on global climate change.