arctic ice loss image

Visualising The Earth’s Ice Loss

Visualising Earth’s Global Ice Loss Between 1994-2017

Visualising the amount of ice that is being lost from the Earth is very difficult to consider. Especially when it is estimated that nearly 70% of the Earth’s freshwater is locked up in glaciers and ice caps, ground ice, and permafrost. This ice is melting at an unprecedented rate.

This news item looks at different forms of visualisation to help improve our understanding of the significance of these loss graph

Based on data from a new scientific survey (slater et al., 2021), this visualisation shows that 28 trillion tonnes of Earth’s ice has been lost between 1994 and 2017.

Over half (58%) of the ice loss occurred in the Northern Hemisphere, from Arctic sea ice and also grounded ice previously trapped in the Greenland ice sheet.

While rising temperatures lies behind most of this historical global ice loss, it’s worth being aware that lower levels of ice results in a positive feedback loop. Less ice means less of the sun’s heat is reflected away from the Earth, instead being absorbed back and further amplifying the global warming effect.

How does a glacier melt?

Change in the Arctic (European Space Agency

Global Ice Loss Visualised Over Paris -a visualisation of one year’s global ice loss 

Reference: Slater, T., Lawrence, I.R., Otosaka, I.N., Shepherd, A., Gourmelen, N., Jakob, L., Tepes, P., Gilbert, L. and Nienow, P., 2021. Earth’s ice imbalance. The Cryosphere15(1), 233-246.