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Published on October 26th, 2018 | by Steve Hanley


What Happens In The Arctic Doesn’t Stay In The Arctic

October 26th, 2018 by  

It’s hard for many people to make the connections needed to understand the global nature of climate change. What does a polar bear trapped on an iceberg in Prudhoe Bay have to do with pelicans in Pensacola, for instance? What do forest fires near Bakersfield have to do with droughts in Botswana? To help understand such relationships, we have a delightful video put together by the folks at the Aspen Global Change Institute. Using simple charts and watercolors, it explains in easy to understand terms the ways in which the various parts of the Earth’s environment are interconnected.

polar bear on Arctic sea ice

Credit: The Smithsonian

The video speaks in terms of “teleconnections,” which are the linkages that connect all parts of the environment together. With the help of easy to understand graphics, those linkages are explained and used to help us understand why the damage from powerful storms like Hurricane Florence cause more destruction due to flooding instead of high winds or tidal surges. In essence, changes in the Arctic may be slowing the jet streams that circle the Earth. Slower upper air currents mean hurricanes remain longer over land, pouring a deluge of rain down on the areas below for days at a time.

While the graphics are kept simple, the science behind each one is real. According to Yale Climate Connections, AGCI creative director Ellie Barber worked with climate science expert James Screen from the University of Exeter to accurately represent the scientific research on the relationship between Arctic warming and changing patterns in the jet stream. The video explains how and why jet streams form and explores the correlation between the warming of the Arctic and the altered weather patterns currently occurring in the United States.

“This video is about science, about creativity, and how we can use creativity to enhance our understanding of science,” Barber says. She believes these simple graphics have the potential to explain the complex components of the Earth’s climate systems and why changes in one area have consequences in other areas.

“What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic,” the video teaches. A simple lesson about a complicated ecosystem. Feel free to share this video with your friends and colleagues. It just might help cool some of the more passionate debates about fake news and junk science and move us all toward a better understanding of our world and our relationship to it.

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About the Author

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Rhode Island and anywhere else the Singularity may lead him. His motto is, "Life is not measured by how many breaths we take but by the number of moments that take our breath away!" You can follow him on Google + and on Twitter.

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