Early Warning System

The Arctic is our opportunity to save something that is still pristine.

As one of the world's major ocean basins, it is home to incredible sea life. The Arctic is a true wilderness, with expansive landscapes and thriving ecosystems.

It is largely untouched, but that is changing quickly.

Rising temperatures are changing the Arctic faster than anywhere on earth. Melting ice cover is threatening wildlife, habitat and native communities.

The Arctic is our early warning system.

Sylvia Earle on the Arctic

OWOO Science Advisor and Nat Geo Explorer in residence Sylvia Earle on this critical moment in history for the Arctic.


Permafrost–ground that is frozen solid year round–has massive amounts of carbon and methane locked up beneath the surface. Methane is a greenhouse gas, along with CO2, water vapor, ozone, and others. But methane has 21 times the warming power of CO2 and is being released as the permafrost thaws. Worldwide permafrost is estimated to hold 1700 billion tons of carbon, more than the US puts out in 300 years (at the 2010 rate).


DISAPPEARING SEA ICE  (Drag the slider above)

Covered by snow and ice, the Arctic used to present a white surface, like the lid of a planetary ice chest, reflecting the sun’s rays back into space. As the ice melts, dark blue ocean water is exposed, and the area absorbs a lot more of the sun’s heat. This accelerates the melting of ice, making the Arctic warm up faster and faster. Sea ice supports everything from polar bears to plankton, which forms the base of the Arctic food web.

Ocean Engine

A global ocean current called thermohaline circulation is driven by changes in water temperature and salt content. The ocean absorbs the planet’s heat and distributes it via these currents, having a huge effect on our climate. As glaciers melt, fresh water enters the ocean, making the cold, deep water warmer, less salty and less able to hold oxygen and carbon dioxide. As the current is altered, it will have unknown effects on everything from sea life to our climate.

No Time Like Now

We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for positive change. The factors are well documented. Rarely is it so clear what needs to be one. Each of us can help. Get involved.

Help Protect the Arctic!