The top of the world is an ice-capped ocean surrounded by continents. The ice cap grows and shrinks over the course of every year in synch with the seasons. Unique species, such as the much-adored polar bear and walrus and less well-known polar cod populate this forbidding region. Now the ice cap is critically threatened. In the summer of 2007 scientists were shocked when its size reached an all-time low, 23% smaller than the previous low. The Arctic could be ice free in matter of decades, if not sooner, with dramatic consequences for ecosystems and climate, both regionally and globally.
The Arctic is also home to the world’s second largest ice sheet, in Greenland. This massive glacier — two miles thick in places and as big as the U.S. east of the Mississippi River — on the island of Greenland would raise sea level by about 23 feet if it melted. Recent research shows that Greenland is melting faster than previously believed possible, raising the possibility of rapid, catastrophic changes in sea level.
The Inuit and Eskimos of the Arctic are threatened by changes at the top of the world. They are also keen observers of their surroundings, with insights that are helping scientists to understand how the Arctic is changing.
- Listen to an excerpt of Fire and Ice, Dan’s documentary on the quest of a Columbia-University to prove true an Eskimo legend of a summer-free year of famine.
- View Dan’s website on Greenland and Iceland
- Listen to Meltdown, Dan’s documentary on how global warming is threatening the world’s ice.