Ice cap and Chicago visual
(Image credit: Meredith Leich video)

As the climate warms, glaciers are melting – fast. Over a 30-year period, Peru’s Quelccaya ice cap lost about a third of its area.

To put that in perspective, artist Meredith Leich of Chicago worked with glaciologist Andrew Malone.

He provided satellite images and data. She then used 3D animation and gaming software to create a virtual world where the city of Chicago looks like it’s built on top of the Quelccaya glacier.

This provides viewers with a sense of scale so they can visualize just how massive the glacier is and how much of it has been lost.

“And so it sort of displaces the viewer from the world that they know,” Leich says, “but keeps it enough in a familiar context so that somebody who lives in Chicago can look and say, ‘Oh yeah, I know what that distance is.'”

And Leich says that to show how much ice has disappeared, “Andrew was able to calculate the volume of ice that has been lost … and then convert that into: If that much ice were to fall as snow on Chicago, that it would reach an elevation, I think, of 600 feet.”

In their virtual world, falling snow buries the city until only the tops of skyscrapers are visible.

“Seeing an image can really elicit an emotional reaction, and I think that that’s where change can come from,” Leich says.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.