The new traveling exhibition Double Exposure: Aerial Photographs of Glaciers Then and Now documents the warming climate through panoramas of glaciers once grand but now receding. Fourteen pairs of large-format, fine-art photographs of mountains and glaciers from Alaska and Switzerland present compelling comparisons that put into stark view the fact of melting glaciers.
The original pictures were taken in the early and mid-1900s. The current images were taken between 2005 and 2007, from the same vantage point.
Many of the images are from Alaska. The Valdez Glacier, for example, crept to the ocean’s edge 70 years ago, but today, it has retreated two miles and thinned by 34 stories. The five glaciers that once met at Blackstone Bay have retreated because the glaciers are melting faster than the snow is falling. In Switzerland, the Matterhorn was covered in snow in 1960. Forty-five years later, Arnold’s photograph shows a much darker mountain riddled with rock debris from the current freeze and thaw cycles.
The show complements another new exhibition at the Bruce Museum that takes a wider view of the topic, Climate Change: From Snowball Earth to Global Warming.
Climate Change: From Snowball Earth to Global Warming shows hot deserts, soggy rainforests, Arctic tundra and temperate forests – a few climatic regions spread across our planet. But climate is not static and changes with time. The exhibition explores Earth’s climate shifts, explains some of the causes of global warming.
Scientists use a variety of methods to reconstruct climate from earlier ages. About 700 million years ago, the entire Earth was so cold that scientists refer to it as “snowball Earth,” where few organisms other than hardy single-celled bacteria survived. Fossil plants and animals such as a 110-million-year-old subtropical fern from Washington state and the skull of a crocodile that roamed Utah 45 million years ago, represent a time when the Earth was significantly warmer than it is today.
Currently, Earth’s climate is warming and scientists continue to need good data with global coverage. On display are examples that underscore the impacts: the polar bear is now a threatened species; corals, cod and a sea urchin are having difficulty adapting to the changing conditions in the oceans; the extinction of the golden toad of Costa Rica and early egg laying of tree swallows have both been attributed to global warming.
Changing climates affect human culture, too. An Anasazi pot in the exhibition reminds the visitor of an ancient culture of the U.S. Southwest that thrived in a wetter period, but then disappeared, likely in part as the result of drought and unstable climatic conditions. Today, agricultural scientists are developing different strains of rice that can withstand an uncertain future of salty water, drought or excess water.
The exhibition is held in conjunction with the International Year of Planet Earth.