12 Views of a Warming World
12 Views of a Warming World
By Raillan Brooks / climate.audubon.org
Oct 30, 2014

Climate change is here, but from day to day, it may be hard to tell.

The changes are incrementally small—small enough to easily explain away. One extremely hot summer could be just a fluke. An outrageous rain that floods streets is striking, but likely isolated. We live in a time when some countries are actively covering their glaciers to prevent melt, while others drill into oil reserves with reckless abandon. 

But taken in sum, these flukes add up to something more. Sometimes you have to see it to believe it.

Shown here are twelve ecosystems already affected by climate change. Global warming is already disrupting food chains. It’s spurring extreme weather events. Our continuous assualt on the natural environment has some ugly ramifications that we can't ignore.  It’s jeopardizing the resources that birds, other wildlife, and we humans need to survive.

These arresting images show some of the most striking effects of climate change already underway.

Believe it. 

Famished: San Diego, California

This bloom of krill, pink, fast, and alive, is already a rare sight in the North Pacific. But with warmer seas, they’ll become even rarer, here and elsewhere. The tiny crustaceans live in a narrow temperature band just 6 degrees wide. As the waters heat up and krill die off, other dominos in the marine food chain will start to topple; all manner of seabird, fish, and leviathan feast on the three-inch creature. In California, the local—and endangered—Scripps’s Murrelet depends on krill as a diet mainstay. As swarms like these disappear, there is no telling how the murrelet will adapt. Photo Credit: Richard Herrmann/Oceans/Galatée Films
 

Flooded: Dorchester County, Maryland

Maryland Flood Spread
The Chesapeake Bay, whose surf is spilling onto the roads of coastal Maryland here, has risen one foot over the 20th century. With water coming further inland, any squall is now more dangerous for coastal habitat and the wildlife living within it. The local American Bittern nests in the dense reeds of the area’s wetlands, but are now frequently battered by the waves. As storm surges around the world grow worse, it and other birds will soon find themselves without refuge. Photo Credit: Greg Kahn/Grain
 

Covered: Rhone Glacier, Switzerland

Covered Glaciers Spread
The Rhone Glacier has steadily shrunk for over 150 years. At this point, the situation is so dire scientists have resorted to covering the glaciers with heat-protective blankets during the summer months. Projects like this one at the Rhone Glacier in the Swiss Alps prevent the glacier from retreating further while also stopping glacial melt from entering the local watershed. The blankets are now common practice in many icy regions of the world. Photo Credit: Olivier Maire/EPA/Corbis
 

Punctured: Antarctic Ice Sheet

Glacial Hole Spread
It’s not just atmospheric greenhouse gasses that heat up the earth—the bright white of the polar ice caps should also reflect solar rays back into space. But these snow-covered caps are increasingly interrupted by pits like these, whose black mud bottoms of rocky sediment called cryoconite drastically reduces polar surface reflectivity. As the ice is increasingly punctured by cryoconite, more and more heat is captured, melting increasing amounts of ice in a feedback loop that might spell the end of pack ice—one of our most important defenses to runaway climate change. Photo Credit: Nick Cobbing
 

Fracked: Bakken Shale, North Dakota

Fracking Spread
The oil rush of the Bakken formation—the massive oil and gas-rich shale underneath Montana and North Dakota—is a new kind of environmental hazard: hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The encroaching degradation shown here is just the surface wound. Fracking pumps chemicals and sand into the earth and explosively shatters the rock formation, releasing fuel that often finds its way into adjacent watersheds. Evidence is mounting that fracking can even induce earthquakes. The critically endangered Baird’s Sparrow is a denizen of this once pristine landscape. As oilrigs devour its habitat, its chances for survival grow slimmer and slimmer. Photo Credit: Tristan Spinski/Grain
 

Disbanded: Central Highlands of Iceland

Iceland Runoff Spread
Iceland has seen average temperatures increase by about 1.2 degrees Celsius since 1975, a rate four times that of the rest of the Northern Hemisphere. These opalescent streaks are actually rivulets of glacial meltwater, making their way from ice caps to the sea. The milky appearance comes from all the dissolved sediments, known as rock flour, once locked away in the ice. The tiny rivers’ beauty conceals a dark reality: The country’s more than 300 glaciers are losing 11 billion tons of ice a year. Photo Credit: Solent News/Splash News/Corbis
 

Overstocked: Arizona

Cattle Farm Spread
Industrial farming now accounts for 80 percent of water usage in the United States alone. On top of water waste, livestock cultivation releases up to 94 million metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere globally, not to mention the millions of metric tons of methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. The cattle seen in this field lot, stretching as far as the eye can see, both consume and produce CO2. As the global population grows, further agricultural intensification is inevitable. Photo Credit: Peter McBride
 

Drained: Baja California, Mexico

Drained River Spread
The Colorado River delta once sprawled over 2 million acres in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. These days severe drought, compounded by local agriculture’s profligate irrigation techniques, has slowed the river to a trickle by the time it hits the border. Follow the waterway to its basin on the Gulf of California, shown here, and much of the year all you’ll find is a desiccated riverbed. Since 2004 the 244,000-square-mile Colorado River watershed has lost 65 cubic kilometers of fresh water, mostly groundwater, or about three times the river’s yearly output into the gulf. Despite water-sharing pacts aimed at quenching the parched earth, the wetlands needed by birds like the Ridgway’s Rail could soon be a memory. Photo Credit: Peter McBride
 

Blighted: Central British Columbia

The forests of central British Columbia, where the Varied Thrush and Red-naped Sapsucker breed, are under attack. Warmer winters and unrelenting drought in western North America have led to a rampant mountain pine beetle outbreak, with no end in sight. The insects, which have infested more than 46 million acres in the United States alone, kill trees, creating vast quantities of kindling that feed wildfires, like the one whose scorched remains are seen here. Despite mitigation efforts, 7 million acres of infested pine trees still bear the blight’s telltale red foliage, and the province expects to lose 57 percent of its pine stands by 2021. Photo Credit: Nina Berman/NOOR
 

Torched: Rancho Santa Margarita, California

The U.S. wildfire season lasts a full two months longer than it did 40 years ago, and the heat is only going to intensify; brush fires charred 9 million acres in 2012 alone. Fire tornadoes—also called fire devils—like this one in Orange County, California, commonly form at the leading edge of blazes, shooting out burning debris. Their core temperatures can reach 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and their wind speeds can hit 100 miles per hour. Wildfire can bring new life—birds such as the Black-backed Woodpecker thrive in recently burned areas—but for the California Gnatcatcher, a threatened species limited to Southern California and Baja California, it means only trouble. Photo Credit: David McNew/Getty Images
 

Melted: Chukchi Sea, Arctic

Melted Ice Spread
Black-legged Kittiwakes, seen here gathered on a melting ice sheet in the Chukchi Sea, breed in the Arctic. These seabirds, whose North American populations are decreasing, have better breeding success when sea ice cover is greater and the cold waters beneath produce more forage fish. As the region warms, kittiwakes are in store for more assaults, including new shipping lanes and increased oil and gas development—an estimated 350 billion barrels of oil sit beneath the Arctic seafloor. The threat of oil spills puts kittiwakes and other wildlife on even thinner ice. Photo Credit: Florian Schulz/Visions Of The Wild
 

Starved: Novaya Zemlya Island, Russia

Starved Bird Cliff Spread
The Arctic is warming at an unprecedented rate, and summer sea ice may disappear entirely within a few decades. This rapid retreat is stranding polar bears far away from seals, their main quarry. The bears, like this adolescent male scavenging Thick-billed Murre eggs on the cliffs of Russia’s Novaya Zemlya Island, have had to turn to new prey. It’s a seismic shift in the food chain, one polar bears may not be able to withstand: It takes 88 Snow Goose eggs (another newly susceptible species) to deliver the nutrition in one meal of seal. As for the murres, their hard-to-reach breeding sites have largely kept predators at bay. Until now. Photo Credit: Jenny E. Ross
3.0 ·
2
Trending Today
"The Myth of Time" - Martin Luther King Jr.
3 min · 6,913 views today · Excerpt from MLK Jr.'s last sermon, "Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution". Delivered at The National Cathedral on March 31, 1968 (4 days prior to his...
How a Lack of Touch Is Destroying Men
Mark Green · 5,053 views today · Why Men Need More Platonic Touch in their Lives
Real Underground Kingdom That Has Existed for Millions of Years Went Unnoticed, Until Recently...
Kid Krunk · 4,728 views today · 28 Stunning Photos Of The World’s Largest Cave
Surviving Capitalist Depression
Michael Emero · 3,569 views today · We live in a toxic society filled with toxic people. Even the ones with the best hearts- including ourselves- have been raised in ignorance, with disinformation. Our examples...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 2,714 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
How Wolves Change Rivers
4 min · 2,187 views today · When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States after being absent nearly 70 years, the most remarkable "trophic cascade" occurred. What is a...
Thich Nhat Hanh: How We Can Learn to Love Our Enemies
5 min · 2,044 views today · This is a short excerpt from Peacemaking. I often think about this story when I think about the kind of activism I would like to bring into this world. I want to help build a...
A Hauntingly Beautiful Short Film About Life and Death
5 min · 1,935 views today · The Life of Death is a touching handdrawn animation about the day Death fell in love with Life.
I Am Not Your Negro (2017)
3 min · 1,705 views today · In his new film, director Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished - a radical narration about race in America, using the writer's original words. He draws...
Hans Rosling Brilliantly Explains Complexity of Population and Resource Issues Using Simple Tools
3 min · 1,524 views today · Let me show you the world, says Swedish academic Han Rosling as he demonstrates the dynamics of population growth, child mortality and carbon dioxide emissions. The challenge...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,498 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
The Charter For Compassion
2 min · 1,485 views today · The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated...
True Justice Should Have Compassion in It
Thich Nhat Hanh · 1,259 views today · I believe that true justice should have compassion in it. When someone does something harmful, destructive, the destruction is done not only to the person who is the victim...
What It Really Means to Hold Space for Someone
Heather Plett · 740 views today · How to be there for the people who need you most
The Price of Certainty
7 min · 665 views today · It’s alarming to see how polarized politics have become in the United States. The wider the gulf grows, the more people seem to be certain that the other side is wrong...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 583 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Touch Isolation: How Homophobia Has Robbed All Men Of Touch
Mark Greene · 371 views today · Homophobic prohibitions against male touch are hurting straight men as well.
Meet the Earthship
7 min · 367 views today · Outside of Taos, New Mexico, you'll find a community of people living in off-grid homes made of garbage. The homes are called Earthships and were invented by Michael Reynolds...
The Importance of Empathy
3 min · 355 views today · With an increasingly polarized and divided world, we need empathy more than ever before. Too often we are talking at each other, unable to listen and jumping to entirely wrong...
The Demoralized Mind
John Schumaker · 353 views today · Western consumer culture is creating a psycho-spiritual crisis that leaves us disoriented and bereft of purpose. How can we treat our sick culture and make ourselves well? asks...
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
12 Views of a Warming World