By Lis Cohen
It’s probably hard to imagine all of Manhattan tumbling into the Hudson River and washing away in less than five minutes, but that’s the equivalent of what you’ll see in the film “Chasing Ice,” as a city’s worth of towering icebergs collapse violently into the ocean — and that’s just one of countless spectacular images that flash across the screen in this astonishing documentary by director and cinematographer Jeff Orlowski, which premiered at Sundance in January and is opening at SXSW this week.
The film is a documentary about a documentarian — a scientist-turned photographer named James Balog, whose obsession with images of ice has gotten him into the pages of The New Yorker and National Geographic. Despite his training as a geographer and geomorphologist, Balog was stunned to see how fast some of the glaciers that he shot were receding in the face of global warming. So he decided to create a long-term photography project he called the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS), which he hoped would merge art and science into a compelling story in pictures about what humans are doing to the climate.
Originally, Balog planned to set up two time-lapse cameras to photograph glaciers, but within a few weeks his ambition had grown: he bought 23 more cameras, then assembled a team of 30 scientific experts, engineers, and photographers to help him carry out his vision. Balog also asked Orlowski to film the project. “I wanted to work with James in some capaci...
Sebastian Copeland and Eric McNair-Landry at the South Pole. Credit: Sebastian Copeland.
On Nov. 5, 2011, a photographer, environmentalist and adventurer named Sebastian Copeland set off from the east coast of Antarctica with his traveling partner, Eric McNair-Landry, on an almost absurdly daring and arduous journey: a two-man crossing of the entire frozen continent, on skis — towing all of their supplies behind them on sleds, at 400 lb. per man when they started. They weren’t entirely self-powered: the pair used kites to pull them along when the winds were favorable. But that hardly made the voyage easy.
It wasn’t just a stunt. The trip was, first of all, a commemoration of the first expeditions to reach the South Pole a century ago, when Roald Amundsen, then Robert Falcon Scott, clawed their way to the southernmost point on Earth. Amundsen got back safely, but Scott and his party died on the return trek.
It was also an effort to dramatize the dangers of climate change. “. . . the poles are like great receptacles of what happens remotely,” writes Copeland on his website, “and warming activities conducted thousands of miles away are impacting these fragile systems. Small fluctuations in temperatures are generally visible fastest in colder climates, where ice or snow is susceptible to melt.” It’s happening faster in the Arctic, which Copeland skied on a trek to the North Pole in 2009 — but Antarctica is starting to feel it as well, and Copeland and McNair-Landry photographed ice conditions on behalf of the National Snow and Ice Data Center...
Its been a weird wacky winter across most of the country, with crazy hot temperatures smashing hundreds of records, and snow droughts in large swaths of the northeast, mid-Atlantic, the California Sierra, Colorado and Utah.
Is this climate change? Global warming? Perhaps global weirding?
“Too soon to tell” is what my staff scientists and PhDs tell me. “You can’t cry global warming every time you have a warm year”
Really? What do you call it then? Or maybe I should ask, when? When will we have enough goofy weather in a row so that we can start calling it climate change?
I guess they’ll get back to me on that one. “Limitations with the climate models, blah, blah, blah . . . “
Luckily, we have more information than just the models (don’t get me wrong, we love climate models here at Climate Central; they just have their limits, like anything else with a million zillion moving parts).
We have the observational record! Which is weather-geek speak for a whole bunch of thermometers telling us how hot and cold it was, every day, at thousands of locations across the country for the past 120 years or so.
Thermometers are good because they tend to be non-partisan, which is extra important when it comes to climate change. There are no ruthless, ice-cold Santorum thermometers, no warm and fuzzy Obama thermometers and no wishy-washy Romney thermometers that change temperature depending on who is collecting the data.
Nope. Just thermometers. Thousands of ‘em do...
As I wait patiently for the premiere of The Hunger Games – that violent, post-apocalyptic take on Coal-Miner’s Daughter based on the young adult science fiction novel by Suzanne Collins, I was excited to read Alyssa Rosenberg’s post over at Think Progress about two new projects with climate change themes.
First up is J.J. Abrams' Revolution, which was just picked up by NBC. Described as a new “high octane action drama . . . following a group of characters struggling to survive and reunite with loved ones in a world where all forms of energy have mysteriously ceased to exist.” I was happy to see that Lost’s Bryan Burk will be executive producing alongside Abrams.
An early logline for Revolution describes it like this, “In this epic adventure thriller, a family struggles to reunite in a post-apocalyptic American landscape: a world of empty cities, local militias and heroic freedom fighters, where every single piece of technology – computers, planes, cars, phones, even lights – has mysteriously blacked out . . . forever.” Hmm. Sounds a little like Lost meets Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. I’m in.
The other project is Snow Piercer, an indie science-fiction flick set to star Tilda Swinton (Alyssa, you’re right, Swinton is from the future) and The Help’s Octavia Spencer. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Snow Piercer, is set in “a future where, after a failed experiment to stop global warming, an Ice Age kills off all life on the planet except for the inh...
Sometimes, covering climate science feels like playing a neverending game of whack-a-mole, since the same dubious arguments — often put forward by the same people — pop up again and again, only to be repeatedly debunked. Today is no different. Over at the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang blog, I have a column responding to a press release issued late last week marking the 33rd year of temperature data from the lower atmosphere, as detected by satellites.
The release, from John Christy and Roy Spencer at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, made several claims that were misleading at best, including the argument that because climate models don't accurately simulate temperature trends in the lower atmosphere compared to the surface, our understanding of global warming is seriously flawed.
As I show, that argument was contradicted by a federal science assessment back in 2006, for which both Spencer and Christy served as coauthors.
That report found: “Given the range of model results and the overlap between them and the available observations, there is no conflict between observed changes and the results from climate models.” As I note: "Moreover, a 2010 review of more recent research on this topic concluded: “There is no reasonable evidence of a fundamental disagreement between tropospheric temperature trends from models and observations when uncertainties in both are treated comprehensively.”
Here's more from the Post:
A second mislea...