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  • Writer's pictureTom Petersen

Global Warming - Part 4 - Thinning Ice

Updated: Aug 30, 2023

For further evidence that global warming is affecting our environment, we can look to glaciers and ice shelves, specifically in Antarctica and Greenland. Scientists estimate that by end of the century, sea levels could rise by three feet, leaving as many as 150 million people without homes. In a new article in Rolling Stone Magazine, On Thin Ice, the rapid melting of the world’s two largest ice shelves is examined.


These two massive ice shelves, located on Antarctica and Greenland, are compressed by snowfall, causing glaciers to break off at the edges and ice to melt. With the warming planet, the once static ice sheets are starting to move and swell. Previously, most scientists agreed that if the two continent-sized ice sheets were to move, the glaciers trapped behind them would remain in place by the friction of the ice and trench they sit in. There was no way to be certain of this because the situation had never occurred. That changed in 2002 when Larson B, a smaller ice shelf the size of Delaware, essentially disappeared. The largest glacier sitting behind it rushed forward towards the ocean, dropping 80 feet in height in just 6 months. This answered the debate for certain. If the ice shelves are removed, glaciers would speed to the sea, causing major flooding in many locations.


Larson B was tiny compared to the ice shelves in Antarctica and Greenland and scientists remained skeptical that these ice shelves could ever move, due to the extremely cold temperatures in those areas. Recently, however, it has been determined that the water temperature around Greenland had increased by more than 3 degrees. This increase was caused global warming along with changes in wind direction and speed, indicating that the atmosphere affects the ocean and ice shelves. The severe conditions in Antarctica make exploration and data accumulation extremely difficult. It is known, however, that both Antarctica and Greenland are losing ice at twice the rate now as in 2002. Scientists fear that these increases in water temperature are creating irreversible damage to the ice shelves. Even if carbon emissions are decreased, nothing can be done about the warming of the oceans that has already occurred.


An image found at http://x-journals.com/2010/ice-shelves-disappearing-on-antarctic-peninsula/ shows the ice-front retreat from 1947 to 2009 in the southern Antarctic Peninsula. This image provides a visual representation of the extreme changes taking place to our ice and in our oceans. If the damage is too far along to repair, then cities and countries most susceptible to destruction from this problem need to create action plans for the future. Extensive research is being conducted and can be found at http://www.arctic.ucalgary.ca/ and also at http://www.glaciers.er.usgs.gov/. The Rolling Stone article, On Thin Ice, can be found at http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/17390/208775?RS_show_page=0.


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