Something terrifying is happening at the North Pole

Writing about climate change presents an interesting challenge.

It's a slow, constant process. Global temperatures rise a little every year, bit by bit accruing disastrous consequences. We get used to hearing that this year, like many years in recent memory, will be the hottest on record. That glaciers are melting. That food insecurity is increasing. That more and more people face climate-induced natural disasters.

As with any slow-moving (on human timescales) tragedy, it's difficult to sustain the degree of attention and horror that each new development deserves.

But then you see something like this:

That's a photo of a Swedish icebreaker sitting in open water at the North Pole, published about two weeks ago. (I first saw it retweeted on weather writer Eric Holthaus's Twitter account.)

Let's put that in context. The North Pole has been entirely covered in ice, including during the summer, for thousands of years. That was still the case when I graduated from high school, and I'm 24.

But a few years ago, predictions that our warming climate would cook the Arctic ice cap until it melted came true. Photos of a lake near the North Pole went briefly viral, then quickly faded from view. Now the Canadian Coast Guard can publish images of open sea at the North Pole and it can pass largely unnoticed.

RELATED: See the impacts of glacier melting

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Climate change: A look at polar ice melting
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Climate change: A look at polar ice melting
ILULISSAT, GREENLAND - JULY 22: Seagulls sit on an iceberg on July 22, 2013 in Ilulissat, Greenland. As Greenlanders adapt to the changing climate and go on with their lives, researchers from the National Science Foundation and other organizations are studying the phenomena of the melting glaciers and its long-term ramifications for the rest of the world. In recent years, sea level rise in places such as Miami Beach has led to increased street flooding and prompted leaders such as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to propose a $19.5 billion plan to boost the citys capacity to withstand future extreme weather events by, among other things, devising mechanisms to withstand flooding. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
ILULISSAT, GREENLAND - JULY 25: Pedestrians walk along the road on July 26, 2013 in Ilulissat, Greenland. As Greenlanders adapt to the changing climate and go on with their lives, researchers from the National Science Foundation and other organizations are studying the phenomena of the melting glaciers and its long-term ramifications for the rest of the world. In recent years, sea level rise in places such as Miami Beach has led to increased street flooding and prompted leaders such as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to propose a $19.5 billion plan to boost the citys capacity to withstand future extreme weather events by, among other things, devising mechanisms to withstand flooding. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
ILULISSAT, GREENLAND - JULY 24: Jason Briner, with the University of Buffalo, Department of Geology, flies in a helicopter to a spot to gather samples of granite to research the age of the local glacial retreat on July 24, 2013 in Ilulissat, Greenland. As Greenlanders adapt to the changing climate and go on with their lives, researchers from the National Science Foundation and other organizations are studying the phenomena of the melting glaciers and its long-term ramifications for the rest of the world. In recent years, sea level rise in places such as Miami Beach has led to increased street flooding and prompted leaders such as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to propose a $19.5 billion plan to boost the citys capacity to withstand future extreme weather events by, among other things, devising mechanisms to withstand flooding. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
ILULISSAT, GREENLAND - JULY 17: Icebergs float in the water on July 17, 2013 in Ilulissat, Greenland. As Greenlanders adapt to the changing climate and go on with their lives, researchers from the National Science Foundation and other organizations are studying the phenomena of the melting glaciers and its long-term ramifications for the rest of the world. In recent years, sea level rise in places such as Miami Beach has led to increased street flooding and prompted leaders such as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to propose a $19.5 billion plan to boost the citys capacity to withstand future extreme weather events by, among other things, devising mechanisms to withstand flooding. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
ILULISSAT, GREENLAND - JULY 22: A fish hangs from a fishermans hook on July 22, 2013 in Ilulissat, Greenland. As Greenlanders adapt to the changing climate and go on with their lives, researchers from the National Science Foundation and other organizations are studying the phenomena of the melting glaciers and its long-term ramifications for the rest of the world. In recent years, sea level rise in places such as Miami Beach has led to increased street flooding and prompted leaders such as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to propose a $19.5 billion plan to boost the citys capacity to withstand future extreme weather events by, among other things, devising mechanisms to withstand flooding. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - AUGUST 01: Aerial view of melt season in the Antarctic Peninsula - Antarctica. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)
KANGERLUSSUAQ, GREENLAND - JULY 14: Blooming flowers are seen near the glacial ice toe on July 14, 2013 in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. As the sea levels around the globe rise, researchers affiliated with the National Science Foundation and other organizations are studying the phenomena of the melting glaciers and its long-term ramifications. In recent years, sea level rise in places such as Miami Beach has led to increased street flooding and prompted leaders such as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to propose a $19.5 billion plan to boost the citys capacity to withstand future extreme weather events by, among other things, devising mechanisms to withstand flooding. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
ILULISSAT, GREENLAND - JULY 15: A glacial toe is seen on July 15, 2013 near Ilulissat, Greenland. As the sea levels around the globe rise, researchers affiliated with the National Science Foundation and other organizations are studying the phenomena of the melting glaciers and its long-term ramifications. In recent years, sea level rise in places such as Miami Beach has led to increased street flooding and prompted leaders such as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to propose a $19.5 billion plan to boost the citys capacity to withstand future extreme weather events by, among other things, devising mechanisms to withstand flooding. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
QAANAAQ, GREENLAND - AUGUST 01: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) A researcher of Japan's National Institute of Polar Research investigates the glacier coloured to red by being covered by glacier organisms on August 1, 2012 near Qaanaaq, Greenland. In Greenland there is said to be approximately ten percent of ice of the earth and the large scale melting of the glacier and ice may affect to the global climate change. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
A child wades through the flood waters in front of the Doges' Palace, next to a flooded St. Mark's Square, in Venice on November 7, 2014. The high water, a combination of high tides and a strong Scirocco wind in the Adriatic Sea, stood at 110 centimeters early on November 7. The city has for years been wrestling with the problems posed by the threat of rising sea levels. AFP PHOTO / OLIVIER MORIN (Photo credit should read OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images)
HOOPERS ISLAND, MD - OCTOBER 30: Donny Willey stands near graves that were once several yards from the waters edge are now exposed and releasing human remains by the eroding waters of the Chesapeake Bay at the Anchor of Hope Cemetery October 30, 2014 in Hoopers Island, Maryland. Willey volunteered his time to try and save the cemetery from erosion and cannot get a permit from the state of Maryland to erect a seawall. The cemetery is the resting place of more than 150 men, women, and children; from the War of 1812 to veterans of several other wars, from the founding family of Hoopers Island to slaves and freed slaves. With sea levels projected to rise several feet over the next century, several islands in the Chesapeake Bay region are slowly eroding away. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
ROBBINS, MD - OCTOBER 09: A truck drives on Robbins Road that is flooded from the high tide of the Blackwater River October 9, 2014 in Robbins, Maryland. Several islands and property's located at sea level in the lower Chesapeake Bay region are slowly eroding away as sea levels rise. Officials have projected the sea level will rise several feet over the next century leaving many of the Chesapeake bay's lower islands underwater. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
HOOPERS ISLAND, MD - OCTOBER 08: A Snapping Turtle sits in the middle of the road October 8, 2014 in Hoopers Island, Maryland. Several islands in the Chesapeake Bay region are slowly eroding away as sea levels are projected to rise several feet over the next century. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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(One caveat: Though the CCG describes this image as from the North Pole, we don't know exactly where in the Arctic sea it was shot. I've reached out to them for comment and will update if I hear back.)

The thing is, people know that climate change is a problem. Gallup reports that 64% of US adults are worried "a great deal" or "a fair amount" about climate change.

It's hard to stay energized when there's so much else happening to worry about though, and that often means that the conspiracists and truthers are the loudest voices.

But in a world where a major presidential candidate can offer no policy proposal at all to address climate change, without any apparent political repercussions, I still think a picture of open ocean at the North Pole is worth paying attention to.

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