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This depressing map of the Arctic lets you track 40 years of melting sea ice

This depressing map of the Arctic lets you track 40 years of melting sea ice
[Photo: Pink floyd88 a/Wikimedia Commons]

If you’re looking for a reason to not get out of bed today, here’s one for you: The Arctic sea ice is melting and it’s melting fast.

As the world reckons with a climate in crisis, marching in the streets, and demanding world leaders and corporate honchos act to get greenhouse-gas emissions under control, oceans are storing the excess heat made by humankind’s bad choices. As the ocean warms, temperatures under the world’s ice sheets heat up. And as everyone who has ever waited too long to chug a slushy knows, when ice gets warm, it melts. That includes some of the older ice that one NASA researcher says serves as an “insurance policy” for the rest of the ice pack.

Melting ice has bad implications for the world’s coastal communities, as well as for polar bears and other wildlife that no longer have ice to call home, forcing them to swim more and making it harder to find food, causing them to starve. (I was thinking about writing this in the Coastline typeface to make it even more telling, but it’s depressing enough as is.)

After the warmest summer on record, 2019 was an especially bad year for sea ice, with higher temperatures resulting in the second lowest level of sea ice observed in the Arctic since satellite measurements began. (Only 2012 was lower.)

To map the dramatic, tragic loss, spatial analytics company Esri has created an app called Sea Ice Aware, which updates each month with data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center and NOAA. The centerpiece of the app is an interactive map, along with statistics that show the monthly mean ice for each month, from 1979 to the present. It also includes study graphs of the minimum and maximum ice levels each year. Sea Ice Aware is something to help you get in touch with your inner Greta Thunberg while hoping that some clever folks will figure out a solution to the melting ice and figure it out fast.

You can check out Sea Ice Aware here.

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