I’ve been blogging about the Place of the Week for nearly two years now, choosing a new location every seven days that I knew little about but had caught my attention or that appeared in the news. In the last year global warming has become much more than another subject debated within academia; in fact its found its way into our language, popular culture, and even our shopping habits. As I thought about this while I tried to pick my first Place of the Year, I kept coming back to the very visible ways the Earth’s landscape has been altered by the phenomena. The media has shown us some rather extreme scenarios–remember those images of Florida’s newer, smaller shape following a rise in sea levels?–but in fact, it is already possible to map the new geographies of a warmer planet.
A few weeks ago I wrote about Warming Island, a landmass formerly thought to be part of a peninsula that receding ice revealed was not connected to Greenland. I decided to make this the Place of the Year to further emphasize the magnitude of climate change. It is quite likely that we’ll continue to see different maps in the near future and that this won’t be the last time a new island appears in the Arctic. I’m sure that we’ll hear more about the Northwest Passage, and the impact of global warming on the populations of people, plants, and animals living in higher latitudes. We may be able to change our own activities to slow the pace of change, but in the meantime, cartographers will be busy in their continuing pursuit to accurately render the surface of the Earth.
Ben Keene is the editor of Oxford Atlas of the World. Check out some of his previous places of the week.