The Arctic In Limbo

Team: Autumn Jing / Brandon Levy / Christian Feld / Kevin Zhang

We explored MASIE-NH which stands for the Multisensor Analyzed Sea Ice Extent – Northern Hemisphere. The data says that the Arctic is in peril as the ice cover has shrunk significantly over the last decade. We want to tell this story because losing the Arctic sea ice will result in very real consequences, from an increased number of life-threatening severe weather events to a positive feedback loop which will accelerate global warming, further destabilizing arid regions such as the Middle East.

We looked at data showing the daily extent of sea ice in the Northern Hemisphere from 2006 through 2016. We identified the annual low-point for each year of the data; that is, the lowest amount of sea ice in a given year. We averaged these annual lows for 2006-2010 and 2011-2015 and compared those numbers to one another and to the 2016 low-point. The 2011-2015 average low-point was 93% of the 2006-2010 average low-point, and the 2016 low-point was 88% of the 2006-2010 average.

Our participatory game is an effective and appropriate medium for telling this story. The limbo setup attracts people because at first sight it is a fun game. The ice extent low points mentioned above are represented by limbo bars of different heights.

The more the ice has shrunk, the lower the bar. Players get a short info sign at every bar, so that they know what it stands for. At the end of the track, there is one bar flat on the floor visualizing the scenario that the sea ice might totally vanish during the summer by 2040.

Once drawn into the physical experience, it is easier to bring our message across and encourage participants to act. A future iteration of this project would guide players to a website that provides a second layer of learning for the players. This site could also show time lapses of the ice extent in specific regions of the Northern Hemisphere.

Our audience is citizens in districts whose representatives are members of the House Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, where “H.R. 861: To terminate the Environmental Protection Agency” is currently under review (15th district of Illinois / 3rd of Mississippi / 16th and 18th of Pennsylvania / 5h and 6th of Texas / 8th of North Carolina).

Our goal is to show people in those districts one of the consequences of global climate change and motivate them to call their representatives and demand that they block H.R. 861.