The US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) based in Boulder, Colorado, has been taking images of our planet for 34 years, documenting climate changes and ice levels across the planet. Data from the past five years show ice levels to be lower than any previously document years. Changes in climate and ice levels for the year 2012 entirely surpassed expectations and thoroughly shocked many scientists and climatologists.

On August 26th, 2012, the NSIDC recorded record-breaking ice-melt levels. The ice had dropped to 4.1 million square kilometers in the Arctic. This ice covered 70,000 square kilometers less and occurred two weeks earlier than the previous record low in 2007. According to a report released by the NSIDC on September 9th, that figure dropped by another 14% to around 3.52 million square kilometers, evidence of a rapidly increasing melt rate. Some scientists agree that the observed drop in sea-ice coverage suggests that the Arctic could be seasonally ice-free as early as 2030 [1].

For scientists, Arctic ice is a fundamental indicator of climate change because of its sensitivity to warmth and the key role it plays in amplifying climate change. Water under the ice pack (known as the halocline) could be warming due to climate warming and ice melt. The warming could, in turn, melt sea-ice and the carbon-rich permafrost beneath costal waters, releasing large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere [2]. The release of long-stored greenhouse gases would likely contribute to a cascading effect of global warmth, trapping more heat from the sun, melting more ice, and thickening the atmosphere.

This scenario of melting ice and increasing warmth is frighteningly similar to the runaway greenhouse effect responsible for Venus’s (Earth’s “sister” planet) climate. On Earth, large amounts of carbon are trapped in ice, water, in the oceans and in materials such as surface minerals. On Venus, there is no water to dissolve and trap carbon, so it exists gaseously free in an atmosphere made up of 96% carbon dioxide. Climate warmth on Earth could potentially release a lot of its trapped carbon into gaseous carbon dioxide, contributing heavily to the greenhouse effect on Earth. In essence, climate warmth and ice melt will bring us closer to the atmospheric composition of Venus, which is often equated to hell.

– How will the little kids of the future ever believe in the wonder of Christmas, Santa Clause or claymation without an ice-covered North or South Pole?… & what about Mr. Snow Miser?