The pristine Arctic ice of the North Pole has now melted into a lake.
A time-lapse video, produced by Jake Bialer with images captured by a webcam erected near the North Pole Environmental Observatory—shows the state of Arctic sea ice since 2000 and documents the dramatically altered landscape as global warming takes its toll.
Though the area of ice cover expands and contracts each year with the change in seasons, the photos show that the pole has been progressively melting since at least 2002.
The meltwater lake, which sits on top of a layer of ice, now forms each year, though the ice is thinning and the newly formed lake is continuing to deepen. According to the National Snow & Ice Data Center, July temperatures were 2 to 5 degrees higher this year than average.
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As Live Science explains:
Meltwater ponds sprout more easily on young, thin ice, which now accounts for more than half of the Arctic's sea ice. The ponds link up across the smooth surface of the ice, creating a network that traps heat from the sun.
Fossil fuel industry vultures celebrate such melt as they eye untapped oil and gas drilling sites and potential shipping channels now accessible through the newly formed Arctic waters. However, a recent study reveals that continued Arctic melting may spell both a climate and economic "catastrophe" if the billions of tons of methane trapped beneath Arctic permafrost become released into the environment, triggering "massive feedback loops and dramatically increas[ing] the rate of global warming."