The Bittersweet Beauty of Greenland's Melting Glaciers

Increased warming by meltwater lakes is referred to as ice-albedo feedback. (Photo: Tom Hegen)

In 2015, the United Nations drafted the Paris Agreement, a global plan for lowering greenhouse gas emissions. The long-term goal is to keep the global average temperature well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Meanwhile, the planet's polar ice caps continue to experience melting ice sheets and shrinking glaciers as world leaders grapple with how to curb global warming. In fact, new findings show that Greenland's ice is melting six times faster now than in the 1980s.

German photographer Tom Hegen somberly depicts the effect warmer Arctic waters have on Greenland in his photography series entitled "two°."

Hegen's photographs not only illustrate melting ice but also rising sea levels. Hegen says the Greenland ice sheet contains enough water to raise global sea levels by 7 meters.

"Melting ice in the Arctic is one of the mostobvious examples of global climate change."

Though the photos carry a stark message, they are also oddly beautiful. As Hegen puts it, "the surface of the Arctic Ice Sheet is not a seamless plain of ice, it’smore like Swiss cheese, covered with thousands of seasonal riversand lakes on the surface through which meltwater is able to flow overthe ice, enter into the ice and then flowing downstream into the ocean."

The edge of the ice sheet where the ice slowly moves down a glacier and into the ocean. (Photo: Tom Hegen)
The surface of the ice sheet is covered with thousands of rivers and lakes that are interconnected by a complex hydrological system. (Photo: Tom Hegen)
Dark blue meltwater lakes absorb more sunlight then white ice, causing more heating and therefore a faster melting process. (Photo: Tom Hegen)
Meltwater flows across the ice, enters into it and flows downstream into the ocean. (Photo: Tom Hegen)
River systems of meltwater cover the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet. (Photo: Tom Hegen)
Meltwater from the Greenland Ice Sheet contributes significantly to global sea level rise. (Photo: Tom Hegen)
Meltwater pools within crevasses created by stretching of the Ice Sheet. (Photo: Tom Hegen)
Meltwater pools within crevasses, photographed from 1.100 meter altitude. (Photo: Tom Hegen)
Lakeshore with ice floes on the Arctic ice sheet. (Photo: Tom Hegen)
A thin layer of ice on top of a meltwater lake. (Photo: Tom Hegen)
The crystal-clear water makes the structures on the bottom of the lake clearly visible. (Photo: Tom Hegen)
Meltwater lake on top of the Ice Sheet. Melt water flows down through glacier mills and into the ice. (Photo: Tom Hegen)
Some of these meltwater lakes have a diameter of more than one kilometer. (Photo: Tom Hegen)
Iceberg with broken off bits floating on a meltwater lake on top of the Arctic Ice Sheet. (Photo: Tom Hegen)
The Greenland Ice Sheet alone contains enough water to raise global sea levels by more than 7 meters. (Photo: Tom Hegen)
Cracks in a frozen meltwater lake, photographed from 900 meters above the ground. (Photo: Tom Hegen)
The ice melt in the Arctic is taking place during the summer months between June and September. (Photo: Tom Hegen)

You can view Hegen's other projects that focus on the impact of humans on Earth by visiting his Instagram and Facebook pages.