As many pictures as I take of beautiful locations, there is a deeper and darker reason to document these landscapes. Some more than others are in danger of changing rapidly over the next few decades becoming unrecognizable. The decisions we make today will have an irreversible repercussions in how we connect with the world around us.
I would like to bring some awareness to the issue at hand through something I connect with. Landscape photography and capturing the beauty of the most incredible of places through my lens is often taken at face value. The hope is to shift this to focus on how these places we view as valuable in their beauty may not be long for this world.
While it is still obvious that we still have snow and the mountains are still great for winter photography I noticed something troubling this year when photographing Mt. Hood. It was very warm and dry. More of a troubling sensation than an ultimatum I think, but it is still something that made me take note.
Global average temperatures are on the rise and the numbers agree. According to NASA “The planet's average surface temperature has risen about 2.0 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century…” which doesn’t sound like much, but it can change fragile environments substantially. The global spring snow pack has decreased over the same period of time on average. Without snow pack in these naturally beautiful winter locations they lose their luster.
It all flows downhill from here. Literally! As the snow and ice melt away and go away quicker many of the forests we enjoy may begin to dry out. Many of the waterfalls in the Pacific Northwest are fed from snow and glacier melt during the drier summer months. If these melt off earlier in the year we may see many of the great waterfalls be crippled or dry up entirely.
A side-effect of dry environments like this is that they are more susceptible to forest fires which can be good for clearing underbrush, but they can spell even worse news for snow packs and glaciers. A recent finding by NASA was that dust and soot has more of an effect on snow melt than warmer early spring weather. A self-feeding cycle!
A favorite of mine for how dramatic and beautiful the coastlines are. I have taken a special liking in particular to the Oregon coast like many in the world do. I love getting into the tide right next to a sea stack to photograph it during the first/last light of the day. Unfortunately, many of the best spots are captured during low tide as they are inaccessible during any other time of the day.
If current trends continue you may not be able to capture the same locations in the same way. All it takes is a couple of feet of sea level change to become far too dangerous to be there at all. Looking at NASA’s data the sea levels rose 8 inches in the last century and are continuing to rise at double the prior rate in this century meaning many of these places that were only just barely accessible will be completely submerged all of the time sooner than expected.
I have seen many people almost swept away with how dangerous these places can be and even there weather is supposed to get even more dynamic with climate change. The verdict might not be in yet on this one, but it looks like we are trending towards more extremes in precipitation, large storms, and drought. Is there no way to win?
We all use these areas for something. Some people enjoy golfing, running, skiing, surfing, or hiking. Still others use natural areas to meditate, absorb negative ions from waterfalls, or soak in the sunlight on a beach. Whatever gives you good vibes outside and connects you to the plant. Just that, you are connected as we all are.
I took a meteorology class in college, but… I am not an expert in climate change. I am not a scientist. I am, however, a photographer taking note of the things he photographs and connects to. Not protecting these beautiful areas we attach value to would be irresponsible.