The Same Arctic Landscape, A Century Apart. Notice Anything Different?


Whether it’s witnessing changes in seasonal patterns or dealing with natural disasters, we’ve seen many signs of climate change all around us. However, visual documentation often helps us better understand these transformations. A comparison between two photos of the Arctic region is widely shared on Twitter. The photos, taken more than 100 years apart, show a grim picture of climate change. IFS officer Parveen Kaswan shared the comparison on Twitter. He captioned it, “It’s the Arctic 105 years apart. Both photos were taken in summer. Did you notice anything special? Courtesy Christian Åslund.” In the first, you can barely see the mountain range behind a wall of glaciers. And the next photo tells a completely different story.

This comparative study, shared by Mr. Kaswan, was part of a 2003 series created by photographer Christian Åslund and Greenpeace, titled “Glacier Comparison – Svalbard”. According to a report by Snopes, the series consisted of seven visual comparisons of contemporary photos and archival photos from the Norwegian Polar Institute.

“I shot this in 2003. Knowledge of climate change was not as common, our attitudes towards climate change were different,” Mr Åslund said in an interview in 2017, speaking about the new image.

Internet users were surprised by the contrast of the two photos. One user wrote: “The picture hits you right in the face.”

Another noted that the extinct ice was also a habitat for many animal species. It would also have led to the extinction of these species.

This person took note of the effects of global warming in these photos and mentioned how things had changed in Kakching, Manipur. The disappearance of sparrows and fireflies coupled with an increase in concrete structures worried him.

One user claimed that climate change and global warming are real issues, not just myths.

Some feared the comparative study of photos taken today and a few decades later. “I don’t want the day to come when a similar photo comparison will be made between the Gangotri Glacier from 2001 and 2031,” one user wrote.

Another made a grim prediction: “In another decade, we will be able to see cement everywhere.”

What do you think of the photos taken by Christian Åslund?

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