Last year, the arctic sea ice melted further than ever recorded by scientists. The northwest passage across northern America was ice free and boats could easily cross last summer. Polar bears and other arctic animals experienced an awful environmental change that threatened their survival. A Google Earth animation showing the sea ice concentration was prepared by the National Snow and Ice Data Center last year. The animation provided a dramatic look at just how far the ice melted and how thin the ice became. The same organization has created a new series of Google Earth animations which show the Arctic ice conditions for this summer. Already, there are signs the ice is melting very rapidly – and melting will most likely continue for another 30 days or more as the summer temperatures continue. The scientists are updating the animations automatically each day. If your computer has low memory, you may want to start with the 30-day animation. But, there are also 60-day and 90-day animations available (see instructions below). Besides demonstrating the fantastic ability Google Earth has of showing real-time information, this visualization is the most powerful way I’ve seen of showing climatic change in the Arctic. I’ve create this video showing what the animation looks like in Google Earth (this animation ends with August 9, 2008):
Once you choose one of the files above, and it loads in Google Earth, put your mouse in the upper center to make the time animation slider appear. Then click the “play” button (triangular arrow like you see on a TV remote) to begin the animation. To speed up the animation, click on the “clock” icon on the left of the slider and adjust the “Animation speed” slider. Each frame of the animation has to load once before you can play the animation quickly. It may take a few moments to load all the frames (especially if you pick the 90-day animation). You can visit other test GE files by the Snow and Ice center at this site.