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NASA space photos capture global warming’s dramatic impact

February 26th, 2010

Global warming skeptics have had a field day lampooning irregularities in data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — arguing that climate change is essentially a hoax. But dramatic images just released by NASA provide a compelling reminder that humans are having a real and profound impact on their environment.

From floods and droughts to heat waves and ice melt, NASA says the impact of a warming world is being manifested in many ways that have been clearly documented by its satellite cameras. These images, some of which date back almost a decade, are published with the permission of NASA. You can see a larger image on the NASA site by clicking each picture:

wilkins_ice_shelf

Image taken on April 12, 2009 by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite. (Photo: NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team)

The Wilkins Ice Shelf is a thick slab of ice on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula. Since 2008, it has experienced several breakups. NASA says the ice began to rapidly retreat in February and in May another breakup occurred. Fresh cracks appeared on the shelf in late November 2008 and by the beginning of 2009, a narrow ice bridge was all that remained to connect the ice shelf to ice fragments fringing nearby Charcot Island. NASA reports that bridge gave way in early April 2009. This image was taken just days after the ice bridge rupture. “Since ice reflects light from the sun, as polar ice caps melt, less sunlight gets reflected into space,” NASA says. “It is instead absorbed by the ocean and land, increasing surface heat budgets and fueling further melting.”

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