29 photos show how climate change has ravaged the Arctic in the past decade

These photos show just how much global warming has devastated the Arctic in the 2010s.

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These photos show just how much global warming has devastated the Arctic in the 2010s.
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REUTERS/Thomas Peter

In 2012, almost all of Greenland’s ice sheet was exposed to melting for the first time in documented history.

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This is a view down the Ilulissat Fjord in Greenland toward the terminus where Jakobshavn Isbrae rapidly discharges ice to the ocean.
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Ian Joughin, Univ. of Washington

Source: Business Insider


By the last week of July 2019, the rate of melting reached levels that scientists with the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had projected for the year 2070 — in a pessimistic scenario.

Source: Business Insider


That month — the hottest ever recorded on Earth — 55 billion tons of water melted into the ocean in only five days.

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Arctic sea ice on September 18, 2019, when sea ice reached its minimum extent for the year.
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NSIDC / NASA Earth Observatory

Source: Business Insider


Together, Greenland’s and Antarctica’s ice sheets hold more than 99% of the planet’s fresh water.

Source: Business Insider


In the last decade, an average of about 252 billion tons of water melted from Antarctica’s ice sheet each year.

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Ice melting in Antarctica.
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Torsten Blackwood/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


In Greenland, an average of 280 billion tons of ice melted per year over the last decade.

Source: Business Insider


Compared to the annual ice melt Greenland saw in the 1990s, that’s a seven-fold increase.

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A deeply incised melt channel in the Greenland ice sheet transports melted ice from a large lake to a moulin (a conduit that drains the water).
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Ian Joughin, University of Washington

Source: Business Insider


Greenland’s ice loss hit a peak in 2011, when 369 billion tons of ice separated from the sheet. That’s 10 times the annual average melt rate seen in the 1990s.

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Outlet glaciers calve icebergs into the waters of Mogens Heinesen Fjord in southwest Greenland.
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Benoit Lecavalier

Source: Business Insider


The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. That has devastating consequences for the animals in the Arctic, especially when it comes to their food supply.

Source: Business Insider


For example, reindeer in the Arctic typically dig under the snow to find food like lichens and grass in the winter.

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Reindeer wait to be fed on December 14, 2014, in Scotland.
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Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider, Science Daily


But unusually early snowfall followed by freezing rain in Sweden’s Arctic in 2019 trapped the plants that reindeer feed on beneath the ice.

Source: Boston Globe


As a result, hundreds of reindeer are dying. Last winter, more than 200 reindeer died of starvation.

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The carcass of a reindeer on the tundra in Norway.
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Arterra/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Source: USA Today, New York Times


Reindeer aren’t the only animals whose food supply has been compromised over the last decade.

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Polar bears dive into Arctic waters.
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REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger

Source: Business Insider


Polar bears sometimes hunt underwater, but long swims in the Arctic can lead to energy depletion and hypothermia. So they need to rest on ice.

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A polar bear eats a piece of ice with sauries frozen in it.
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Lee Jae Won/Reuters

Source: Business Insider


Thinning ice makes it harder for polar bears to travel far enough to find food.

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A polar bear dives off of an iceberg.
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Courtesy of Lt. Samuel Brinson

Source: Business Insider


Thinning ice also led Arctic ringed seals, the polar bear’s main source of food, to become endangered.

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A seal underwater.
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REUTERS/Nigel Roddis

Source: Business Insider


As a result, starving polar bears have been spotted wandering into towns …

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A stray polar bear is seen in a garbage dump in Norilsk, Russia.
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Yuri Chvanov/Reuters

Source: Business Insider


… looking for food.

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A starved polar bear wanders through Norilsk, Russia, looking for food. Residents say the bear “could hardly move.”
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IRINA YARINSKAYA / Getty Images

Source: New York Daily News


Arctic pollution affects polar bears as well.

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A polar bear cub stands next to its mother in their enclosure at the Wilhelma Zoo in Germany.
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REUTERS/Alex Grimm

Source: Business Insider


Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) have been widely used in commercial products like plastics, pesticides, and insecticides, and they take a long time to degrade, can be transported over long distances, and often wind up trapped in the Arctic.

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Plastic bottles and other waste in a drain in West Africa.
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Luc Gnago/Reuters

Source: Business Insider, The Arctic Institute


The Arctic Ocean has become the Northern Hemisphere’s “dead end” for floating plastic, The Atlantic reports, and POPs often contaminate polar bear milk, leaving cubs with toxic pollutants in their bodies.

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NOAA photo library

Source: The Atlantic


Climate change is the biggest threat to the survival of the polar bear.

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Yuri Smityuk / Getty Images

Source: New York Times


Food insecurity is also a troubling threat for Alaskan Native communities, since they also rely on the ice for hunting. The ice provided a stable platform for fishing and hunting in the ocean, but as it thins, hunters struggle to find seals, walruses, and different fish they rely on to get through the winter.

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Tribal elder Warren Jones stands on a site threatened by climate-change erosion caused by melting permafrost tundra and the disappearance of sea ice.
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Mark Ralston/Getty Images

Source: Vice


People living in remote Alaskan villages also face flooding and erosion as a result of rising sea levels.

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School children play on melting ice at the climate-change affected Yupik Eskimo village of Napakiak on the Yukon Delta in Alaska on April 18, 2019.
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Mark Ralston/Getty Images

Source: Vice


These villages are becoming more isolated as ice roads that once connected them to one another melt.

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An aerial view of Kivalina, Alaska, which is at the end of an 8-mile barrier reef located between a lagoon and the Chukchi Sea, on September 10, 2019.
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Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Source: Vice


It’s not just rising temperatures that are melting the ice — it might be wildfires too. Research Ohio State University suggests that smoke and soot from Arctic wildfires may have forced melting in Greenland in 2012.

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Located just east of Alaska, part of the tundra in Canada’s Northwest Territories was ablaze in 2014.
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Peter Griffith/NASA

Source: Business Insider, Business Insider


Wildfires are known to break out in the Arctic during the summer season, but the 2019 fires raged longer and were more intense than in previous years. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) tracked more than 100 fires in the Arctic Circle in the summer of 2019.

Source: BBC, Business Insider


Unusually hot and dry conditions in parts of the northern hemisphere — from the Mediterranean to the Arctic — have created ideal conditions for wildfires, according to the WMO.

Source: Business Insider


If the rapid melting in the Arctic continues, 400 million people may be at risk of coastal flooding by 2100.

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The 2015 Arctic sea ice summertime minimum is 699,000 square miles below the 1981-2010 average, shown here as a gold line in a representation of a NASA analysis of satellite data released September 14, 2015.
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NASA via Reuters

Source: Business Insider