Anders Bekeken

Extreme Ice Documentary by NOVA Online: In Extremis

Geschreven op 14-3-2010 - Erik van Erne. Geplaatst in Klimaat Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Extreme Ice NOVA2NOVA has produced an extremely informative hour-long show called Extreme Ice. 

The first section of the show, titled “In Extremis,” explores how.

“Around the world, glaciers and ice sheets have begun breaking apart and accelerating toward the oceans faster than ever imagined possible. With his Extreme Ice Survey, photographer James Balog is trying to alert the world to this unsettling fact.”

Remarkable time-lapse footage by one of the world’s foremost nature photographers reveals massive glaciers and ice sheets splitting apart, collapsing, and disappearing at a rate that has more and more scientists alarmed. This NOVA-National Geographic Television special investigates the latest evidence of a radically warming planet.

“Extreme Ice” follows National Geographic-funded photojournalist James Balog to some of the most dangerous places on Earth as he documents the disappearance of an icy landscape that took thousands of years to form. An artist, scientist, explorer, and former mountain guide, Balog braved treacherous terrain to site his cameras in ideal locations to record the unfolding frozen drama.

The program charts the progress of Balog’s Extreme Ice Survey (EIS), the largest photographic study ever attempted of the cryosphere, the mantle of ice that covers large portions of the Earth and that plays a critical role in weather. The effort involves deploying 26 time-lapse cameras in alpine and arctic locations across the Northern Hemisphere and programming them to shoot a frame every daylight hour for three years.

As the program shows, the resulting time-lapse movies give breathtaking evidence of geology in action. Ominously, the proverbial glacial pace of large masses of ice is no longer as slow as it once was, due to the warming of the planet that is accelerating the break-up of these titanic structures, including the separation of a Rhode Island-sized piece of the Antarctic ice sheet in 2002. Scientists are overwhelmingly convinced that the temperature increase is tied to the rise in greenhouse-gas emissions caused by burning fossil fuels.

A NOVA-Nat Geo film crew accompanies Balog to EIS locations around the world. In Alaska, Balog records the rapid retreat of the Columbia Glacier, one of the largest ocean-feeding glaciers in North America (see photo at right). Amazingly, the calving of such glaciers is so frequent that wetsuit-clad surfers sometimes paddle nearby, waiting for an avalanche of ice to generate massive waves for a wild ride. Later, in Iceland, Balog photographs exquisitely sculpted icebergs on the beach, the last stop in their natural journey from the interior out to sea.

Most dramatically of all, in Greenland the award-winning photographer explores a landscape as magnificent as the canyon country of Utah—except carved in solid ice. Lowering himself by rope into a giant hole in the ice sheet bored out by a torrent of meltwater, Balog finds himself in a world of surpassing beauty, scientific mystery, and maximum peril. Among the scientists featured in “Extreme Ice” are Richard Alley of Pennsylvania State University, along with Tad Pfeffer and Jim White, both of the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Richard Alley tells NOVA that the shrinking of glaciers has long been clear to anyone who lives near them. But “the ice sheets surprised us,” he says. “We thought the little glaciers would melt when it got warmer and that the big ice sheets wouldn’t do much. And all of a sudden the big ice sheets started rumbling faster … and we said, whoa, that wasn’t supposed to happen!”

No one knows what will happen next. The ultimate doomsday scenario—the melting of all the ice on Greenland and Antarctica and the subsequent raising of sea level by some 200 feet—seems out of the question anytime soon. But even the current consensus estimate of a three-foot sea-level rise in the next century would wreak havoc in coastal regions, displacing millions of people, from Florida to Bangladesh. The lesson is that the big melt-off now under way holds a potential for changes of far-reaching and as yet unknown extent. (Watch a series of video podcasts on the impact that arctic melting is already having on Yupik people living on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea.

Chapter 1: In Extremis
Around the world, glaciers and ice sheets have begun breaking apart and accelerating toward the oceans faster than ever imagined possible. With his Extreme Ice Survey, photographer James Balog is trying to alert the world to this unsettling fact.

Chapter 2: Glacial Pacemaker
In just one example of many, Alaska’s Columbia Glacier, one of the biggest ocean-feeding glaciers in North America, has been hemorrhaging ice so quickly that in the last 30 years it has receded 10 miles up its fjord. Glaciologists are racing to understand why.

Chapter 3: Doomed Domes?
Scientists agree that in the next 50 to 100 years, mountain glaciers almost everywhere will disappear. Their abrupt collapse raises disturbing questions about the Earth’s biggest tracts of ice, the polar ice domes of Greenland and Antarctica, as James Balog sees firsthand in Greenland.

Chapter 4: Greenland on Defrost
Rising temperatures, driven by fossil-fuel burning, are pushing Greenland towards a major meltdown. The last time the island lost a significant portion of its ice, it happened over thousands of years, glacier expert Jim White suspects. But this time, it could happen much faster, he says.

Chapter 5: A Slippery Slope
Lately, giant meltwater lakes have been forming atop the Greenland ice sheet in summer, then suddenly vanishing. They’re draining to the bed of the ice sheet, lubricating outlet glaciers and potentially speeding them up all the more.

Chapter 6: Inundation BluesOver 100 million people live within three feet of sea level—the very amount that experts expect seas to rise by 2100. Cities will spend trillions on coastal defenses, low-lying regions such as Florida and Bangladesh will be devastated, and many island nations will cease to exist. Overall, the consequences will test our ability to adapt like never before.

See also: Earth From Space by NOVA – Antarctica: Secrets Beneath the Ice Documentary by NOVA – Power Surge Documentary by NOVA – Search For The Super Battery Documentary by NOVA – Extreme Ice Documentary by NOVA Online: In Extremis – Chasing Ice by James Balog: The Story of the Earth’s Changing Climate

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