So Much Polar Ice Has Melted That Maps Have to Be Redrawn
When people discuss immediate victims of climate change, they list endangered species and island dwellers… yet never cartographers. WONíT SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CARTOGRAPHERS?
Why cartographers? Theyíre having to recreate maps due to global warming. Polar ice is melting so drastically and rapidly that new editions need to be generated in order to accurately reflect the size and shape of the arctic ice sheet.
Perhaps thatís just the kind of representation that climate change skeptics need to see. While itís hard to picture what the loss of millions of square miles in ice amidst an entire ocean actually means, visually seeing a measurable change between two maps published years apart may do the trick. ďUntil you have a hard-copy map in your hand, the message doesnít really hit home,Ē said Juan Jose Valdes, a geographer for National Geographic.
Currently, cartographers are redrawing maps to more accurately reflect the new size of these ice sheets.†Valdes referred to the ongoing alteration as ďthe biggest visible change [to maps in recent decades] other than the breakup of the U.S.S.R.Ē
On second thought, maybe this is kind of a boon for cartographers. Instead of tracing and drawing the same lines over and over again, they finally have something new to keep up with that adds some excitement to their jobs. I would hardly say the potential destruction of life as we know it is a worthy trade for mapmakers to have busier schedules, but itís a minute perk, I suppose.
Truthfully, itís never clear-cut on where to draw ice lines in maps since the size fluctuates during the year. In winter months, water freezes and glaciers become larger, whereas natural melt happens in the summer months. It is up to the cartographers to decide whether they want to represent the ice boundaries at their largest, their smallest, or somewhere in between.
Make no mistake, though: the fact that the glaciers regain size in colder months is not a sign that things are getting better or not as bad as scientists claim. While there is a natural seasonable ebb, arctic ice is much smaller than it once was overall. Even in todayís winter months, the ice does not return to the size of summer months from years past.
One of the most damning pieces of evidence geographers developed cannot be visually depicted in a traditional 2D map. In this 3D-like chart, you can see that itís not only surface area of ice thatís vanishing, but the overall volume of ice, as well:
Frankly, Iím afraid to see what maps created three decades from now will reveal to us. Not only will the polar ice look even smaller, but surely the rising sea levels will have an impact on the coasts of landmasses, as well.