Why Ice Matters

Why Ice Matters

By helping to regulate climate, ice plays an essential role in making Earth a haven for life. Mountain glaciers, seasonal sea ice, and the deep layers of ice on Greenland and Antarctica keep the world from overheating: white surfaces of ice reflect the sun’s heat back into space. They provides large expanses of the planet with habitable temperatures.

Artist’s images and scientific data reveal that the world’s ice is rapidly receding. Human-produced greenhouse gases, by warming the atmosphere and land and sea surface, have disturbed the planet’s long-term balance.

A world without ice portends devastating consequences for plant and animal biodiversity, including human culture. One quarter of Earth’s population (1.75 billion people) relies on glacier-fed rivers for life-supporting 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 presenting the importance of alpine and polar landscapes in Western art, it seeks to inspire a personal connection to these regions along with an active commitment to their preservation.

Subhankar Banerjee (American, b. India 1967), Caribou Migration from Oil & the Caribou, 2002, from Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land


• “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.”