"The Arctic’s climate is warming at least four times faster than the global
average, causing irrevocable changes to this vast landscape and precarious
ecosystem – from the anticipated extinction of polar bears to the appearance of
killer whales in ever-greater numbers. A new study suggests the Arctic Ocean
could be ice-free in summer as soon as the 2030s – around a decade earlier than
But to properly understand the pace and force of what’s to come, we should
instead focus on organisms too small to be seen with the naked eye. These
single-celled microbes are both the watchkeepers and arch-agitators of the
Scientists like me who study them have become forensic pathologists, processing
crime scenes in our Arctic field sites. We don the same white
anti-contamination suits, photograph each sampling site, and bag our samples
for DNA analysis. In some areas, red-coloured microbes even create an effect
known as “blood snow”.
In this complex criminal investigation, however, the invisible witnesses are
also responsible for the damage being done. Microbes testify to the
vulnerability of their Arctic habitats to the changes that humans have caused.
But they also create powerful climate feedback loops that are doing ever-more
damage both to the Arctic, and the planet as a whole."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics