We Just Found the Most Terrifying GIF on the Internet

Shudder.

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Scientists have long warned us about a climate change tipping point—the moment past which there is no turning back. If you haven’t started panicking yet, now is the time. Last week, Kevin Pluck tweeted an alarming GIF that shows the gradual yet relatively stable decline of global sea ice over the past 40 years before experiencing a sudden drop in 2016.

Visualizing data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), the animation borrowed the design of climate scientist Ed Hawkins’ climate spiral, which went viral last year and inspired a reference at the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Rio Olympics.

According to scientists at the NSIDC, this drop shows the combined disappearance of sea ice at both poles. In mid-November last year, scientists observed an “almost unprecedented” level of Arctic sea ice decline when an area of ice larger than Denmark melted away during a time of year when sea ice typically increases. The Antarctic experienced parallel conditions, with November air temperatures measuring 3.6-7.2°F (2-4°C) warmer than normal.

Both poles play a critical role in stabilizing global temperatures. If these unexpected developments continue, it wouldn’t just spell faster sea level rise but also an unprecedented acceleration of warming that could lead to climate disaster.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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