WHAT ARE the EFFECTS of MELTING ICE CAPS?
Climate change is one of humanity’s most concerning issues, and we can already witness its effects. It has an impact on our environment, animals as well as on our daily life. It is the cause of the melting of the Earth’s ice caps and all glacial regions throughout the entire globe, which is perhaps the most worrisome aspect. Moreover, this global dilemma also raises the crucial questions: “What will be the effects after these melting processes and what will our future look like?”. Certainly, the effects will not be insignificant and of course, our future will depend on the activities, which we are doing now, so as to save our planet. This task of saving our Earth is not an easy one, but I think that only if we collaborate and gain knowledge about how we can help, we will succeed and make the world a better place to live in.
But what are the ice caps and what is their role in terms of the climate? Ice cap is a thick layer of ice and snow that constantly covers big territories, such as plains, valleys and mountains. Ice caps, glaciers and all other forms of ices, which cover different areas of our planet, are essential part of our nature. Nowadays, 10% of our Earth’s area is coated with glacial ice, 90% are in Antarctica and the other 10% are in the ice cap of Greenland. The ice protects the Earth and its seas by acting as a defensive shield. As a matter of fact, 80% of the heat is reflected back into Space by the white patches, which are keeping the Earth cool. In other words, without any of the ice caps, that quantity of heat will be absorbed by our seas, causing sea levels to increase. Therefore, warmer sea and ocean surface temperatures will lead to more frequent and severe weather catastrophes.
As we know ice is made up of water and when it melts it has an impact on the levels of the oceans, on the climate conditions and temperatures, on the environment and on every living creature, because everything in our nature is interconnected. All these melting processes are not at all minor – the fast melt in Greenland and Antarctica, negatively effects our waters. In fact, the level of the World Ocean has risen with about 24 centimeters since 1880, which is definitely disturbing. What happens is that, when large amounts of this cold water goes into the warm oceans, it slows down their tides. Moreover, the sea level rise is influenced by a mixture of ocean volume changes and thermosteric expansion, therefore, the whole ecosystem of the ocean is also transforming – there is less salt in the oceans, which will cause drastic and extreme changes of the weather. So as this polar ice continually melts, sea levels will not stop increasing. (Schneider, et al. 4). As stated by Lorin Hancock:
Melting glaciers add to rising sea levels, which in turn increases coastal erosion and elevates storm surge as warming air and ocean temperatures create more frequent and intense coastal storms like hurricanes and typhoons. Specifically, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are the largest contributors of global sea level rise. Right now, the Greenland ice sheet is disappearing four times faster than in 2003 and already contributes 20% of current sea level rise. (Hancock)
Everything that occurs in these regions has effects everywhere throughout the world. Firstly, the tides of the oceans will deeply affect weather patterns around the planet as sea ice and glaciers disappear and seas get heated. Accordingly, warmer seas will modify where and when fish reproduce and that would harm industries that rely on healthy fisheries. As a result of the common flooding, coastal municipalities will continue to confront billion-dollar recovery expenditures. (Hancock). Unfortunately, we have already lost about nine trillion tons of ice in the years 1961 to 2016 and according to statistics from the World Wide Fund for Nature, before year 2100, more than a third of the world’s existing glaciers will have melted. In addition, around 95% of the earliest and heaviest ices on Earth, have already disappeared and as believed by scientists, if emissions continue to grow uncontrolled, the Arctic may be ice-free in the summer by 2040, if ocean and air temperatures keep going up from their current rates. These facts are absolutely shocking and I think it should make us think even more about all the consequences and be more accountable towards our planet.
As we are seeing, it is of huge importance for global warming to be stopped, in order for these melting processes to be prevented as soon as possible. According to the scientists Ian Allison, Frank Paul, William Colgan and Matt King:
The societal effects of sea-level rise will be highly varied throughout the world, with some locations experiencing a sea-level fall, while others experience a sea level rise several times the global mean. Perhaps counterintuitively, the sea-level rise due to terrestrial ice loss will be most substantial in areas furthest from the source of melting ice. (Allison et al.)
In their article – “Ice Sheets, Glaciers, and Sea Level”, they also discuss about the many natural disasters, which will follow, if soon we do not take serious actions, as we see that sea level will be rising even more in areas, which are far away from the melting point. This means that there are risks of floods and groundwater salinations, which will leave damaging consequences. For instance, people’s homes and coastal communities may get flooded, while salination changes the structure of our natural water resources – rivers, dams and lakes, on which we rely constantly for various needs.
Despite the solid evidence of continuing rising sea levels, deniers continue to doubt upon climate scientists’ prediction models. However, scientists use the OGGM model to predict the melting of the ice caps and glaciers and the models of weather. This is an open-source numerical model, which is proven to be reliable by many professional experts and can predict the dynamics of ices in past, present, and future climates. Basically, this model begins with preprocessing climate data and topographical data, then after the centerlines, calculated by an algorithm, they are being modified to turn into flow lines. Furthermore, the model is using also the depth-integrated shallow ice approximation to compute the ice velocity, thickness, structure and dynamics. When it comes to weather, there are many other computer programs and resources, such as atmospheric and oceanic conditions, current temperatures, humidity, wind speed and air pressure, with which scientists can easily forecast it. Therefore, with so many technologies for prediction, it is no surprise that some have already discovered the rapid processes of disappearing ices. As Dixit, Sahany and Kulkarni suggest: “[…] the situation could be even more alarming than reported in this study, with glaciers melting even slightly faster than projected by the […] OGGM model.”(Dixit, et al.). The newer models, as CMIP6, foretell that there will be higher increase in the temperatures in 21st century and that sadly, there might be a longer melt season. Another study about the melting ice-sheets, explained in the scientific journal –“Nature”-, claims that the melting of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, along with mountain glaciers, is speeding up, owing to rising atmospheric and oceanic temperatures. Furthermore, the loss of ice adds to the current acceleration in global-mean sea-level rise, and it might possibly be connected to the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation decreasing. As specified by the authors Golledge, Keller, Gomez, Naughten, Bernales, Trusel and Edwards:
Here we show, using simulations of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets constrained by satellite-based measurements of recent changes in ice mass, that increasing meltwater from Greenland will lead to substantial slowing of the Atlantic overturning circulation, and that meltwater from Antarctica will trap warm water below the sea surface, creating a positive feedback that increases Antarctic ice loss. In our simulations, future ice-sheet melt enhances global temperature variability and contributes up to 25 centimetres to sea level by 2100. (Golledge, et al.).
It is proven that the environmental consequences will again not be favorable for the planet. Alterations are going to occur in the temperatures of the air, the oceans, the subsurface and sea surface and in the sea level, which means that the situation with the melting ices is only getting worse.
We now know that ices have been shaping and protecting our planet and nature for years and as a consequence of this predictions and scientific researches, we can imagine that without them, nothing will be the same, our lives might turn upside down. As our Earth continues to lose its ices dramatically, we start to think who causes this whole issue of global warming and climate change. Scientists agree that global warming is mostly attributed to anthropogenic activities. Sadly, we found a way to destroy the purest thing, which was given to us and that is our nature. As reported by Daniel Glick:
Scientists who assess the planet’s health see indisputable evidence that Earth has been getting warmer, in some cases rapidly. Most believe that human activity, in particular the burning of fossil fuels and the resulting buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, have influenced this warming trend. (Glick).
It is certain that we are going to lose significant sources, if this melting processes do not stop as soon as possible. For instance, glacial till gives us soil, on which we can grow our food crops and also to make gravel and sand, which are used for making asphalt. Furthermore, during summer when it is warmer in general, most of the mountain rivers and streams are being filled exactly from glaciers and from them we get fresh water for all our daily needs. If we continue to lose more and more ices, this suggests that one day, when all ices disappear the plants and animals, which live on ground will not have any clean water to survive. Due to this global issue, creatures that rely on sea ice for living, such as polar bears, walruses, seals, narwhals, whales, artic foxes and many more are going to lose their natural habitats, which could be quite stressful for them. They must adapt to new surroundings or even perish when there is less ice. Let us take polar bears under consideration, which are already affected and are on the list of endangered species. These species are already forced to fast for months, because they do not have enough fat stored and cannot find food, while the ice is melting. For instance, their main prey is seals, which are living under the sea ice and the bears are using the ice as a platform to catch them from above. If these ices completely disappear, bears would have to swim further and further, so as to catch their preys. As a result of this tiring hunt for food, fewer polar bears will be able to survive. In addition, sea ice is also important for the seals, as stated by Stirling and Derocher:
The presence of sea ice is critical to polar bears (Ursus maritimus) because it provides the platform from which they hunt the seals they feed on. Similarly, the seals, especially ringed seals (Phoca hispida) that are the main food of polar bears, depend on the sea ice to provide a platform on which they can give birth and nurse their pups. Regional yearly variations in the seasonal distribution and abundance of sea ice have been shown to have significant effects on the reproduction and survival of both polar bears and seals. (Stirling, et.al 240)
Poor physical condition, decreased reproductive rates, less cub survival, and an increase in polar bear-human contacts are going to be the earliest indicators of the dangerous consequences. Additionally, female bears might experience difficulties, while giving birth because it will be hard for them to reach their places for denning. Moreover, late-winter rains could cause polar bear maternity shelters to fall, leading to the deaths of the cubs. Whenever the numbers of polar bears become less, people’s hunting limits will be restricted and finally removed. Furthermore, the tourist industry, which brings people to see polar bears in the western Hudson Bay, will eventually fade. Regrettably, the white bears are expected to go extinct from at least the southern part of their territory if the Arctic Ocean’s ices disappear for an extended amount of time. (Stirling, et.al). As the sea ice habitat diminishes, wildlife and humans are coming into increasingly regular contact and frequently conflict – as species encroaches on Arctic settlements in search of a safe haven. In other words, polar bears may stay more often on land, which has a certain disadvantage that will cause panic and fear between both white bears and people.
The loss of ices, definitely causes a lot of problems for us, people, as well. Such noticeable changes could be observed in the Arctic. There, the ice melting processes are influencing of course, the people, the atmosphere, the levels of the seas and the aquatic life. As claimed by John E. Walsh, Overland and Wang in their articles:
Coastal communities in Alaska and Siberia are experiencing increased flooding and coastal erosion as a result of the loss of the sea ice buffer that previously protected the coast from wind-driven waves during summer and autumn storms. As a result, several communities in Alaska are facing costly relocation away from the coast. An increase in ship traffic is another impact of the retreating sea ice cover, as the lengthening open-water season presents opportunities for offshore resource extraction, tourism, and shortened transit times for the marine transport industry.
[…] The most direct impact of sea ice retreat on climate is the warming of the Arctic atmosphere. This heat release from the ocean continues even after freeze-up because the ice is thinner and less insulating than in previous decades. This ocean to-atmosphere heat transfer affects the distribution of atmospheric pressures that, in turn, drive atmospheric circulation. (Overland and Wang).
As we know, the effects of the global warming and the ice melt can affect every living organism. When the Earth’s temperature gets hotter, the ices start to melt, then the ocean levels rise up and also become hotter. This means that these increasing temperatures will also negatively contribute to the whole underwater life – coral bleaching and the loss of reproductive habitats for marine fish and animals are going to be just a small part from all the following implications. But what will these implications mean for us? For instance, as this global issues changes the marine life, the creatures that live there, will also like polar bears, start to suffer due to lack of their survival necessities. Creatures will start dying, therefore, there will not be enough food for everyone, the reproducing processes will stop and the whole marine system, unfortunately, might disappear. Besides, people who live in fishery regions, where their main food and work depends on that, would also be put at risk of survivability. As new, extreme weather approaches, there would be even more natural catastrophes, which might cause problems for the people, who work as a sailors or in ships, since they will not be able to go in the waters because of the bad weather conditions, which also can result in maritime disaster. Consequently, except from our environmental resources, our daily routines and health will also be affected from the ice melting. So, we should ask ourselves – is there a way out of this worldwide problem? What actions should we take for the purpose of saving our planet and stopping the melting processes?
Firstly, we can begin with the simple individual activities, which could prevent the global warming and hence the melting of ices, efforts such as recycling and stopping the frequent usage of plastic would be quite beneficial. We must also use more sensibly water and electricity, in order to be more economical and eco-friendly. Moreover, we should stop using the fossil fuel energy and think about another alternative, which is more beneficial, such as solar panels. We could also drive electric vehicles, because they do not pollute our surroundings. Another idea for us also is to make more events, which will raise awareness and encourage people to take actions. Of course, these small acts are helpful, but our environment could not be saved only by doing them. We know that our world has never experienced a problem of such matter, so in order to save it, more serious actions are required on a communal level. Such things that need to be done are encouragement for climate-change-fighting initiatives and help to people and environment so as to adapt to a changing climate by working with companies to minimize carbon emissions. Moreover, the global greenhouse gases emitted by the human activity must also be reduced and stopped as soon as possible, because a large amount of them makes our planet overheated. When we do all these actions together, we can only improve our way of living and help to stop the climatic changes and the melting ice processes, so that we restore our environment and save our future.
In conclusion, I would repeat what many people and scientists have already said. All of the global problems, especially the melting of ices are not a hoax. It is something, which happens every minute and if we do not take actions now, there will not be anyone else, who could save us later, because this issue actually controls our lives and our destinies. We must protect our nature that has given us life for many decades in order to keep enjoying its beauty. For that reason, we have to be united, work together and make every single act of ours to count, because we owe this to ourselves and to our future generations. Only together we will be stronger, more motivated and more creative, so as to thrive as a community and succeed in rescuing our planet.
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