Using 360-degree cameras to document the landscape and polar bears of Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, teams at Google Maps, Earth Outreach, and Polar Bears International have made it possible for us to explore life on the tundra. This is behind the scenes of the Polar Bear Capital of the World:
This quiet town, set on the shores of western Hudson Bay, is a place where polar bears and humans coexist until the sea ice forms and the polar bears can travel on to the bay to hunt seals, their main prey.
During the warmer months, the polar bears are forced ashore by melting ice. While climate change may seem like a gradual process, often difficult to discern, the impact is real and evident in the polar bear capital. In Churchill, climate change has shortened the time that the bay remains frozen, reducing the polar bears’ hunting season by approximately four weeks…
In addition to this documentation, the team aims to educate about the polar bears’ quickly-changing habitat, and to inspire our reduction of carbon emissions, the largest man-made contributor to warming the planet.
To learn more, check out these ways to reduce your carbon footprint. And then search for polar bears in Churchill.
In the archives: watch more polar bear stories, more conservation, and another video about how technology helps us understand our changing world: the Catlin Seaview Survey of the Great Barrier Reef.
We can now “fly over” topographically accurate landscapes of Mars thanks to Mars Express, the European Space Agency (ESA) mission to explore the red planet. Launched in June 2003 and arriving six-and-a-half months later, the Mars Express spacecraft has orbited the planet almost 12,500 times, better revealing Mars’ turbulent climatic history. It’s expected to continue orbiting and gathering data until the end of 2014.
From Slate’s Phil Plait:
I saw quite a few landmarks in there, including Olympus Mons, the tallest volcano in the solar system; Valles Marineris, the longest rift valley in the solar system (it’s wider than the Grand Canyon is long!); an elongated crater I’ve written about before (at the 2:20 mark, and shown at the top of this article); and the ridiculously gorgeous and very weird swirls in the terrain at the Martian north pole (though the south pole of the planet is even more jaw-droppingly beautiful).
I was also intrigued by a crater shown at the 1:50 mark, which looks like it got filled by a landslide off a nearby hill. Mars isn’t what you might call geologically active, but it does commonly suffer landslides and avalanches when the frozen carbon dioxide ice under the surface sublimates (turns directly from a solid into a gas), which can dislodge material. If that happens at the top of a hill or cliff, material can cascade down dramatically. I strongly suspect that’s what we’re seeing in this video.
Taken with the satellite’s High Resolution Stereo Camera, the video was released by the DLR German Aerospace Center.
In the archives: more satellites, more maps, and more Mars.
What is beneath the world’s largest ice sheet? Compiled by the British Antarctic Survey and made from “millions of new measurements, including substantial data sets from NASA’s ICESat satellite and an airborne mission called Operation IceBridge,” this animated map of the changing Antarctic Ice Sheet reveals the bedrock terrain below with a level of detail never seen before.
Read more about decades of data: Peeling Back the Ice of Antarctica by Wired’s Adam Mann.
Via jtotheizzoe, watch Return of the Cicadas by Samuel Orr, a beautifully shot film that shows the insect’s unique 17-year life cycle in detail.
With soil temperatures along the East Coast now above the mid-60’s, the Brood II cicadas are up and chirping! Check out WNYC/Radiolab’s real-time Cicada Tracker map to see where they have been observed:
The video above is a jaw-droppingly superb look at the rise of the magicicada from its underground lair, their mass ascent to the trees, their monstrous metamorphosis into adults, and their brief mission to avoid being eaten and reproduce…
More cicada stuff:
If any of you on the East Coast have photos or video of abandoned shells, climbing juveniles, or chirping adults, I’d love to see them! Tweet me or email them to itsokaytobesmart at gmail dot com.
Sir David Attenborough with cicadas and so many insect videos(!) in the archives.