Randall Hyman, an adjunct professor at Webster, is also a photographer who has documented the Arctic. He said changes in the Arctic could be a warning to the rest of the world.
In 2012, the Midwest, Webster Groves included, experienced unprecedented drought. One year later, the area had record flooding. These severe weather events are directly tied to the rising temperatures and melting glaciers in the Arctic.
Photographer and adjunct professor at Webster Randall Hyman has witnessed the melting first-hand. Braving sub-zero temperature and daunting terrain, Hyman documents the decline in Arctic ecosystems he has seen.
“The climate change and ecosystem shifts in the Arctic are a canary in the coal mine for the rest of the globe. Temperatures in the Arctic are rising at twice the rate,” Hyman said.
Water resources local to Webster Groves are being affected by increasingly extreme weather as well.
“In a dry period of time, [a] creek will have almost no water in it,” Webster University professor of sustainability studies David Wilson said. “In fact, many urban creeks that used to flow year round now are what they call intermittent; they only flow after rain. And then, after, they’re almost dry.”
Such extreme changes in weather result directly from rising temperatures in the Arctic, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
According to the USGS, 68.7% of all freshwater on the planet is locked away in glaciers, 10% of which is in the glaciers of Greenland.
Hyman said he advocates for the protection and restoration of these glaciers by documenting and reporting on their rapid disappearance. He also teaches a class on climate change at Webster University related to his findings.
He compares the effects of rising temperatures in the arctic to the effects it has in mid-latitudes using a “Connect-The-Dots” analogy.
“As you connect down to Iceland, which is subarctic, they’re losing their glaciers. In southern Greenland, they are losing their glaciers,” Hyman said. “Hudson Bay used to freeze over this time of year, [but] it’s not frozen over [and] it hasn’t for years. What does that mean? It means all the ecosystems are thrown off kilter.”
Polar bears require glaciers and ice platforms to navigate their home and hunt seals for food, and seals live and breed on the glaciers. Without the ice, both species are at risk.
But the ripple effect of melting ice doesn’t stop there, according to Hyman.
“Hudson Bay doesn’t sound so far away. That’s Canada, that’s Ottawa, that’s Toronto. How far is Toronto from New York City? What’s been happening on the coasts of the U.S. for years? We’re getting much more severe hurricanes. They go much further north to New York and into maritime provinces of Canada. That’s what I mean by connecting the dots,” Hyman says.
Without the steady and consistent rainfall our planet has been used to, rising temperatures have altered weather, as well as climate. Yes, there is still heavy rain, as well as heat and cold alike.
However, Hyman said the extremity of heavy rainfall and periods of drought, and the extremity of hot summers and cold winters, is the concerning effect of climate change.
“Weather and climate are related, but climate is the long-term impact on our weather. You dress for the weather, and you build your cities and buildings for the climate. That’s the big difference,” Hyman said.