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.



Warren Webber
Warren Webber1 years ago

Live long and prosper!

Mark Donners
Mark Donner2 years ago

Dan B: where did you become the climate expert for the oil companies, is that what the little caricature of an idiot in glasses and lab coat is supposed to convince. Your observation was "Not much change", eh? Land ice (what's important for the health of the earth and what will raise the ocean levels) IS disappearing from the earth in massive quantities.

Results of satellite measurements which have measured ice loss in all of Earth's land ice between 2003 and 2010: The total global ice mass lost from Greenland, Antarctica and Earth's glaciers and ice caps in that period was about 4.3 trillion tons (1,000 cubic miles), adding about 0.5 inches (12 millimeters) to global sea level. That's enough ice to cover the United States 1.5 feet (0.5 meters) deep.

About a quarter of the average annual ice loss came from glaciers and ice caps outside of Greenland and Antarctica (148 billion tons, or 39 cubic miles). Ice loss from Greenland and Antarctica and their peripheral ice caps and glaciers averaged 385 billion tons (100 cubic miles) a year.


Very sad new cause all the animals that live there in that territory. The effects for humans, earthquakes etc. we deserve them all that cathastrophis we deserve them cause we are the cause.

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H2 years ago

Ice is melting on all levels. Montana's glaciers are all but gone. California's Mt Shasta is nearly bone dry. The change is everywhere sad to say but the Arctic is the worst hit. All those ice dependant animals are/will be dying off.

Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld2 years ago

What are you talking about?! We are discussing facts here - particularly those concerning glaciers and sea ice. BTW, many scientists are predicting a less salty ocean due to melting fresh water ice.

Steven Gregory Davis

@Dan B.
You remind me of a famous Republican quote: "Don't confuse me with FACTS"!!!!
It is self-claimed "INTELLECTUALS" such as yourself, who will be denying global warming and its effects, until you are "swept" into a way too SALTY Ocean (also a contribution of ours, due to the industrial revolution/ invention of the internal combustion engine, and all the excess CO2 we have produced)...Don't tell me, let me guess...You probably with REAGAN's brilliant remark upon visiting a demonstration at UC Berkeley while still Governor of Calf. in 1981, that is actually TREES, and not as we had assumed cars/factories/aircraft that cause POLLUTION...C'mon, are you really that STUPID, or are you playing the devil's advocate???

Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld2 years ago

John r.,
I would agree that once at the ice melts offshore that there is little blocking onshore melt. We have a long way to go before that becomes an issue though. At both poles, the ice further from land glaciers melts first. The sea ice adjacent to land glaciers remains year after year (so far).

John R.
John d2 years ago

Dan -I am sure about your reference to Great Lakes ice,

Just giving you visual effect to show you that ice melt does not stop at shore's edge but goes inland also.

Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld2 years ago

John r.,
I not disagreeing with you on those claims. Although, I am sure about your reference to Great Lakes ice, which does not contribute to sea level, was at an all time high this past winter.

Glacial ice ( on land) is a different story than sea ice. When that melts, it raises sea level. Sea ice originates in the ocean and returns to the ocean, with only a minor snowfall contribution.
The loss of ice from Greenland recently would contribute to sea level rise, as would the glacial loss from alpine glaciers. Any increase in Antarctic glacial ice would partially offset that. The expanding sea ice around Antarctica does not affect overall sea level.

John R.
John d2 years ago

CAUSE AND EFFECT - obama, in all of his wisdom, looks at BIO-FUELS and makes an exec mandate that we have to use ethanol fuel - So what happens ? Simple - people THINK that the gas problem is solved because of 10% ethanol and drive 25% more (loss of gains) AND the price of corn for ethanol doubles AND cattle, pork, chicken feed doubles AND the price of your meat protein TRIPLES - AND - obama, in all of his wisdom, tells senior citizens that their cost of living (COLA) is not going up. They eat a lot less !!

CAUSE AND EFFECT - ethanol mandates - high corn prices - grain farmers and ADM get rich - high price of meat protein - more driving and more carbon - more ice melting lighter and or heaver tectonic plates and more sever earthquakes !!
Like Walt Disney use to teach us - Newton's 3 Laws of Motion
That for every force there is a reaction force that is equal in size, but opposite in direction.