Extreme Ice Survey: Giving science a visual voice

Extreme Ice Survey: Giving science a visual voice

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

Nowadays, satellite data is key in measuring the retreat of glaciers. However, satellites have only been around for so long and sometimes the magnitude of melting glaciers is hard to grasp on a satellite image.

The Extreme Ice Survey (EIS – the acronym forms the German word for “ice”), a programme of the Earth Vision Institute, is a long-term photography programme that integrates art and science to give a “visual voice” to the planet’s changing ecosystems.

In this video, we see the EIS team on South Georgia Island, near Antarctica, deploying cameras to create timelapses of the retreating glaciers on the island. The team also uses historical photographs to show how much the glaciers have retreated. This comparison is truly staggering because it shows the scale of the amount of ice that is melting into the ocean.

The freshwater melt from glaciers is a massive problem because not only does it contribute to sea level rise, but it also alters ocean currents due to heavier salt water being pushed down. Ultimately, the polar ice caps are of the utmost importance to our global climate, they are our airconditioning system, they influence jet streams and other climate dynamics, and they are very fragile ecosystems.

The work of EIS and its founder James Balog is also showcased in the documentary “Chasing Ice“, which contains the largest calving event ever recorded on film.

Cover photo by Frank Hurley (Public Domain)

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