A never-before-seen view of Earth has entered the internet, in which a fluffy mass billows out from Antarctica. Viewing it is like witnessing the growth of a cotton candy colossus otherwise native to fever dreams or R.L. Stine’s imagination, prepping to overtake the world in spun-sugar domination.
Or as the scientists say, it’s a false color composite time lapse of the Antarctic ice sheet, and it shows a much spookier reality: climate change.
This video gained traction among the environmental science side of Twitter, and by now you might be wondering why we’re posting about it on the electrical and computer engineering homepage. Is it because we think you all need a study break? Are we trying to get you to recycle? Is the author of this article grasping at straws in an attempt to celebrate Spooky Season?
While we're not saying it’s not for any of those reasons, we’re primarily sharing because we happen to know the guy who made it: Dr. David Long.
“I created a really cool (pun only partly intended) color video of sea ice motion around Antarctica” he said in an email.
The video comes from the BYU Center for Remote Sensing, which Dr. Long directs. The Center is involved in a NASA-sponsored project to “develop scatterometer-based data time series to support climate studies of the Earth’s cryosphere and biosphere,” according to the Center’s website.
Long and his team created it using over a thousand frames’ worth of satellite scatterometer data, collected from 2007 – 2009. The Center’s website says the different colors in the video reveal differences in roughness, dielectric constant, and volume scattering.
Long’s collaborator J.Z. Miller shared the video on Twitter, where it received 15,000 views within a day.
It caught the attention of notable environmental scientists and programs across the world, including the European Space Agency’s Directorate of Science and Robotic Exploration ‘s Senior Science Advisor Mark McCaughrean, nature illustrator Marlo Garnsworthy, and Spanish climatology magazine RAM.
“Start your day with this beautiful, hypnotic time lapse of a year in the life of the sea ice surrounding Antarctica,” McCaughrean tweeted. He bumped BBC Science Correspondent Jonathan Amos.
At this point, the video could go or it could peak at 15,000 views and the world will move on, ignorant to the wonders of timelapse sea-ice videos. Go on and take a look at the NASA SCP site, and don’t forget to recycle!