Climate Change Never Looked So Good

Stunning images show the science of global climate change

Gavin Schmidt, NASA climate scientist and one of the nonsense-dispelling bloggers at RealClimate, teamed up with photographer Joshua Wolfe to create the new book Climate Change: Picturing the Science. According to its creators, the book illustrates climate change science through “arresting images and lucid explanations of the science of global warming and the pursuit of global cooperation in adopting new, sustainable ways of living.”

Check out a selection of the book’s most breathtaking images in’s Gallery: Climate Change Never Looked So Good.

Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau, Alaska

This image was captured in 1894. (See next slide for what it looks like today.)

The Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau, Alaska, in 2004

The World Glacier Monitoring Service has declared that mountain glaciers are now shrinking three times faster than they were in the 1980’s, leading one scientist to declare that the world’s glaciers are now entering conditions not seen in the past 10,000 years, “and perhaps conditions which mankind has never experienced.”

Sea Levels and Our Cities

One of the reasons coastal areas are so vulnerable to rising sea levels is that human populations tend to concentrate in them. Therefore, even a small rise in sea level can, for instance, compound the damage done by storm surges, leading to massive losses. Some cities, like Amsterdam, are already largely below sea level and must be protected by dykes (that will have to be raised in response to climate change).

The Glass Frog

This glass frog, which is native to Costa Rica, is directly threatened by climate change, as are nearly all of its amphibian brethren. Warmer temperatures appear to cause disease epidemics in amphibians.
Coal-fired power plants, such as this one in the Conesville, Ohio, are by far the ‘dirtiest’ means of producing electricity in terms of amount of carbon released into the atmosphere. This has made coal a primary target in the effort to keep total emissions of carbon dioxide below the threshold that will yield two degrees celcius of warming. Scientists have settled identified this threshold as the marker for avoiding “catastrophic” consequences from climate change.

Water: An Endangered Resource

Lake Mead, behind the Hoover Dam, is a key source of water for 22 million people in the American Southwest. Reduced availability of water is probably the most immediate and harmful consequence of a warming world. Scientists have projected a 50/50 chance that Lake Mead will be dry by 2021.

Geothermal Energy

This is the Svartsengi power plant that towers over the world-famous Blue Lagoon volcanic hot spring in near Reykjavik, Iceland. Geothermal energy is one of the alternative energy sources that have been proposed as substitutes for fossil fuels, which release the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide when burned. While conventional geothermal energy is limited to areas where hot rocks and underground reservoirs of water are readily available, MIT has calculated that in the U.S., use of Enhanced Geothermal energy, where water is injected into hot, dry rocks, could produce “2,000 times the annual consumption of primary energy in the United States in 2005.”

Methane Leaks

A researcher lights a plume of methane leaking from an arctic lake. Methane is trapped in frozen soil, frozen lakes and even at the bottom of the ocean, worldwide. As these areas thaw because of warming global temperatures, this methane will be released into the air, making it potentially one of the most powerful climate feedbacks, which researchers fear could push the earth toward runaway climate change.

The American Southwest (Ch-ch-ch-changes)

This image of a nearly dry lake in the American Southwest shows evidence that the lake’s level was once much higher, as indicated by the line between light and dark layers visible on the rocks in the background. The American Southwest will experience many of the most obvious geographical changes as the world warms, including increased forest fires, prolonged drought and soaring temperatures. As forests succumb to heat stress, many areas will return to what they once were – grasslands.

Flood Barriers

This shot of the flood barrier on the river Thames shows the barrier’s scale; it is second in size only to the Maeslantkering flood barrier in the Netherlands, another country that is vulnerable to rising sea levels. As climate change progresses, the Thames barrier will be raised more and more, often to prevent London from being flooded by storm surges that will continually increase in height, thanks to rising sea levels. A similar flood barrier, much larger in scale, [