Each sum­mer, as the air warms and sun­light spills over the ice sheets of Green­land and Antarc­ti­ca, lakes of bril­liant blue melt­wa­ter form on the white sur­face. This breath­tak­ing­ly beau­ti­ful land­scape is ter­ri­fy­ing at the same time. Over the past few decades, the rate of melt­ing has accel­er­at­ed sig­nif­i­cant­ly, and these deep blue lakes are tak­ing up more and more of the ice sheet.

beauty of melting glaciers

These pic­tures were tak­en by pho­tog­ra­ph­er Timo Lieber, who doc­u­ment­ed the nat­ur­al phe­nom­e­non.

“I have always had a pas­sion for ice,” Lieber tells The Guardian. “I’ve been to Ice­land sev­en or eight times, as well as Arc­tic Nor­way and Green­land. Green­land’s con­tri­bu­tion to glob­al sea lev­el rise is about three times that of Antarc­ti­ca. I saw how quick­ly land­scapes change and decid­ed to cap­ture this process in pho­tographs.”

Timo Lieber flew over the vast Green­land ice land­scape in a small twin-engine air­craft. The pilot gen­tly tilt­ed the plane, allow­ing Lieber to take pic­tures through a tiny hole in the win­dow.

“The images are delib­er­ate­ly abstract,” Lieber said. “I did­n’t want them to be doc­u­men­tary pho­tographs. You have to peer to find the lit­tle hid­den details that give you the real pic­ture of what’s going on. These land­scapes are breath­tak­ing­ly beau­ti­ful, but at the same time ter­ri­fy­ing, as these are the process­es of cli­mate change at its worst. My favorite is the eye-like lake. This blue semi­cir­cle sym­bol­izes glob­al warm­ing, which seems to be look­ing at you.”

Melt­ed water bod­ies play an impor­tant role in the birth of small ice­bergs. Dur­ing the melt­ing process, cracks form in the ice, as detailed by Robert Sim­mon from the NASA Obser­va­to­ry:

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“Cracks in the glac­i­er deliv­er water deep into the ice sheet, some­times even to the base of the rock, where the water lubri­cates the low­est lay­ers of ice. Lubri­cat­ed ice moves faster towards the ocean, form­ing a large num­ber of ice­bergs. The net result is a large loss in ice mass, which would be sig­nif­i­cant less with­out the influ­ence of melt water flows.“

A com­plete col­lec­tion of Timo Lieber’s pho­tographs, titled “The Thaw”, will be avail­able to view in Lon­don from 20 to 24 Feb­ru­ary. Con­tin­u­ing the theme, also admire the won­ders of the ice world in a sep­a­rate pho­to tape.