One GIF Reveals Exactly How Much Ice Has Melted Since 1999

August 12th 2015

Alex Mierjeski

President Barack Obama conjured an evocative picture of just how serious the problem of global warming is, calling up a touchstone of topography known by more than five generations of Americans, following his remarks last week over the unveiling of his latest offensive against climate change.

"Shrinking ice caps forced National Geographic to make the biggest change in its atlas since the Soviet Union broke apart," Obama said at a White House speech Monday.

Quick on the President's statement, National Geographic released a GIF illustrating just how much their world atlas, which has been printed since 1963, has changed since just 1999 to reflect the melting of massive ice formations in the Arctic. In the 10th edition, printed last year, the publication notes that the "shrinking of the Arctic ice sheet... is one of the most striking changes in the publication's history."

According to National Geographic Geographer Juan José Valdés, the ice has melted even more since the 10th edition's publication.

"The end of Arctic summer is still several weeks away, and it's still too early to say if another record will be broken. But one need only look at the maps derived from satellite imagery to see the impact of global warming," he told National Geographic's news site.

"You hear reports all the time in the media about this," Valdés said. "Until you have have a hard-copy map in your hand, the message doesn't really hit home."

Melting Arctic ice caps are largely due to warming oceans, which are themselves a product of global warming, according to National Geographic. Over the decades, arctic sea ice has been one of the clearest indicators of the problems warming oceans can cause. Since the late 1970s, the ice has retreated at a clip (or measurement) of 12 percent each decade, accelerating after 2007, according to NASA satellite imagery.

As ATTN: previously reported, Obama's plan would target greenhouse gas emissions from the nation's power plants, setting tough limits on carbon emissions and giving states more leniency in rolling out those standards—an apparent effort to appease both environmentalists and energy industry representatives. Some key provisions of the Clean Power Plan include reducing carbon emissions nationwide by 32 percent of 2005 levels by 2030, aiming to boost renewable energy production by 30 percent by 2030, and cutting down on pollution-related public health issues such as asthma attacks, missed school days, and premature deaths.

"Climate change is not a problem for another generation," Obama said of the plan's goals. "Not anymore."

Read more about the President's Clean Power Plan, and some of its surprising supporters, here.