Below two degrees Celsius above pre-Industrial levels – the agreed goal signed by 197 countries at the Paris climate agreement in 2015 to limit global warming to avoid disastrous consequences of climate change. Average surface temperatures across the globe have already risen to one degrees Celsius since 1880, halfway to the threshold. So what does the effect of this warming look like?
German photographer and designer Tom Hegen recently took to the skies above the Arctic ice pack and Greenland ice sheet to take some aerial shots and document what's happening.
"Global sea level rise will be one of the major environmental challenges of the 21st century," says Tom. "One of the leading causes of sea level rise is the melting of ice from glaciers and ice sheets. The Greenland ice sheet alone contains enough water to raise global sea levels by more than seven metres. On top of the contribution from melting ice and glaciers, seawater expands as it gets warmer, raising sea levels even further.
"The Arctic is the fastest warming place on this planet, providing the first indication of how climate change is having an impact on the Earth's eco-system. The Greenland ice sheet covers approximately 82 per cent of Greenland’s surface. Melting ice in the Arctic is one of the most obvious examples of global climate change."
According to Tom, the surface of the Arctic ice sheet is not a seamless plane of ice, it’s more like "Swiss cheese", covered with thousands of seasonal rivers and lakes on the surface through which meltwater is able to flow over the ice, enter into the ice and then flow downstream into the ocean.
"Surface melting also affects how much of the Sun’s energy the ice sheet reflects – known as the albedo effect: The bright white surface reflects most of the suns energy," adds Tom. "Whereby melting ice uncovers darker land, water or ocean underneath, which then absorbs more sunlight, causing more heating and therefore a faster melting process. A vicious circle with serious effects for weather and eco-systems."
It's believed that global sea levels are likely to rise by more than 60 centimetres by the end of this century, which risks the displacement of one-fifth of the world‘s population. Tom Hegen's Two Degree Celsius series merely explores the effects of global warming, primarily caused by human activity. See more of his recent work at www.tomhegen.de.