Yes, Mr. President, We Remade Our Arctic Atlas

GEOGRAPHY

While discussing his new plan to combat global warming, President Obama referenced one of the most striking shifts in the history of National Geographic maps. (Nat Geo News)

Learn more about the “Twilight of the Arctic Ice” with our beautiful map. (Download the full-size version here.)

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit.

Note: Current Event Connections is slowing down for the summer. Our column will continue to appear once or twice a week until mid-August. If you have an idea for a Current Event Connection, a recommendation for a good read, or want to share one of your MapMaker Interactive maps, let us know in the comments!

icemaps

This startling animated image shows the retreating ice of the Arctic, mapped in four National Geographic atlases from 1999 through 2014.
Maps by National Geographic

Discussion Ideas

Follow the “feedback loop” of Arctic albedo—get the whole map here. 31327 Map by National Geographic

Follow the “feedback loop” of Arctic albedo by clicking to enlarge this graphic. Get the whole map here.
Map by National Geographic

  • According to Nat Geo News, “Ice loss is accelerated in the Arctic because of a phenomenon known as the feedback loop.” How does the feedback loop work? Take a look at the graphic above for some help.
    • Fact: Thin ice reflects less sunlight than thick ice. Thick, snow-covered ice reflects about 85% of sunlight, while the open ocean reflects as little as 7%. This provides a “feedback loop” in which a warm ocean gets warmer.
      • Feedback Loop 1: The less sunlight is reflected, the more heat the ocean absorbs. A warmer ocean weakens the ice above—causing it to thin and warm the ocean even more.
      • Feedback Loop 2: Because thinner ice is flatter, it allows melt ponds to accumulate on the surface, and liquid water is much less reflective than solid ice or snow. This allows the ice to weaken and thin—and warm the ocean even more.

 

This beautiful map displays three distinct ice fields. Can you find them? Get the whole map here. 31327 Map by National Geographic

This beautiful map displays three distinct ice fields. Can you find them? Get the whole map here.
Map by National Geographic

  • The great Nat Geo maps of the Arctic actually show the extent of two ice fields: multiyear ice and sea ice. What is the difference between multiyear ice and sea ice? How are they depicted differently in Nat Geo maps?
    • Multiyear ice is older—in fact, another name for multiyear ice is simply “old ice.” Multiyear ice is displayed as a white mass on Nat Geo maps.
    • Sea ice freezes and melts seasonally—its extent grows in the winter and shrinks in the summer. Sea ice is depicted as a line or lines on Nat Geo maps. The map above, for instance, displays the extent of two measures of sea ice. The blue line displays the extent of sea ice in September 1980, while the orange line displays the extent of sea ice in September 2007.

 

Click to enlarge this lovely illustration of a worrying phenomenon. The mysterious draining of Greenland’s supraglacial lakes—illustrated on the left—has only recently been throughly explained. Illustration by Alejandro Tumas, National Geographic

The melting of Greenland’s ice sheet is a leading factor in sea level rise.
Map by Alejandro Tumas, National Geographic

 

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

Nat Geo: Yes, Mr. President, We Remade Our Atlas to Reflect Shrinking Ice

Nat Geo: Twilight of the Arctic Ice

3 responses to “Yes, Mr. President, We Remade Our Arctic Atlas

  1. Pingback: See How Sea-Level Rise Might Drown Some Cities | Nat Geo Education Blog·

  2. What you don’t seem to cover is during the last Ice Age , there were Areas in the World that were Tropical such as Siberia and most Scientists agree , Antarctica. Our Star is going into a Grand Minimum Solar shutdown and that means an Ice Age is on this Planet’s doorstep. If you compared the World in the 1600’s starting with two major Volcanic Eruptions and going into the Solar Shutdown . the Maunder Minimum , you will see a great similarities between our Planet then and our Planet now.
    Global Warming is a Lie!!! Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.
    Peace Y

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