Why Ice Matters

By helping to regulate climate, ice plays a pivotal role in making Earth a hospitable place for life. Mountain glaciers, seasonal sea ice, and the deep piles of ice on Greenland and Antarctica prevent the world from overheating: white surfaces of ice reflect the sun’s heat back into space, keeping much of the planet at habitable temperatures.

Artist’s images and scientific data reveal that glaciers, sea ice, and ice sheets are rapidly changing. Human-produced greenhouse gases, by warming the atmosphere and land and sea surface, have  upset the planet’s long-term balance.

A world without ice holds profound consequences for plant and animal habitats as well as human culture. One quarter of Earth’s population (1.75 billion people) relies on glacier-fed rivers for life-sustaining water.

Melting ice and warmer oceans also contribute to sea-level rise. With two-thirds of the world’s population living within sixty miles (one hundred km) of a coast, rising seas will be devastating.

Vanishing Ice offers another perspective on “why ice matters.” By highlighting the importance of alpine and polar landscapes in Western art, it aspires to kindle a personal connection to these regions along with an active commitment to their preservation.



• “Ice is a common material with uncommon properties: it can flow downhill like a river, carve rock like a chisel, reflect sunlight like a mirror, and float on water like a cork.” — Henry Pollack, geophysicist and author of A World Without Ice, 2009

• Ice contains 75% of the world’s fresh water.

• Ice can reveal the planet’s climate history dating back 800,000 years.

• 90 percent of a floating iceberg is actually beneath the water, which led to the expression, “That’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

Top Banner image: Thomas Hill, Muir Glacier, Alaska, 1887-88, Oakland Museum of California