Regents Earth Science

Wednesday, 16 April 2014
Main Menu
How does the melting ice affect the environment? PDF  | Print |  E-mail

Hopefully in the future, people can look at a map and see the same amount of land on it as we do today. It may sound strange, but global warming has effects on the many glaciers and icecaps on the Earth, some of which are much more complex than just more water on the Earth. Global warming has to do with a number of things. Most of it is from pollution. The increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is one of the causes. (Venus’ atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide, and it is the hottest planet in the solar system. Automobiles are a major cause along with factories. The greenhouse effect is how gases in the atmosphere, like water vapor, carbon dioxide and others trap energy from the sun, and it there was not that effect from the gases the Earth’s surface would be sixty degrees Fahrenheit colder.   

 Melting glaciers in the Arctic and the Antarctic

            According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, in the last 100 years the sea level has risen about 6 to 8 inches. A variety of things are causing this rise but the thing that is triggering all this seems to many like global warming. Antarctica accounts for 90 percent of the world’s ice, which is where many icebergs come from. Icebergs are formed when ice breaks off from these glaciers. It is one theory that rising temperatures cause more ice to break off from these glaciers and fall into the ocean displacing water, which could cause sea levels to rise. But even this could not account for all the change in Earth’s sea level. Antarctica is covered in ice about 2,133 meters of ice. If this were all to suddenly rise the ocean could rise about 200 feet. But that could never happen in the near future, because the temperature of Antarctica is about -37 degrees Celsius. Another organization, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, estimated in their report that the oceans could rise 90 centimeters by the year 2100. Which could have a profound effect on cities on the oceans, especially during storms.     

 A flooded city in Asia

        But there are also people and places affected by the melting. For instance, in Bangladesh, over one million people have been displaced do to the rising sea and the rising rivers: the Ganges and the Bramaputra. It is expected that if no action is taken, that thirteen million more people will lose their homes in the near future. There is also a vital rice crop there, which would be lost. This would only take one meter of rising to do all this damage. There are also many island nations; like Tuvalu, that is no more than fifteen feet above sea level in any place, but most of it isn’t even a meter high. Much of the island is already extensively flooded.

Flooding in the isle of Tuvalu   

    There is another extreme case of melting, but it isn’t at the poles, its right at the equator in Africa. These mountain peaks covered in ice have been told about for centuries, but they are expected to be gone in twenty years if nothing is done.  Richard Taylor of the University College of London Department of Geography concludes that these changes in air temperatures in the Rwenzori Mountains that are causing the glaciers to recede are letting mosquitoes to live in areas that they couldn’t live because of the environment, and they are now spreading disease; malaria specifically. He also says that these mountains are natural barriers between neighboring tribes that could enslave and kill each other if they weren’t separated by these mountain caps like they have been for generations. But there is also a danger to the native wildlife. Many species of endangered animals live there like: elephants, chimpanzees. There are also about eighty-nine species of birds that are in danger as well. These ice caps also contribute to the Nile River. The Greek Philosopher Ptolmey referred to these as "The Mountains of the Moon whose snows feed the lakes, sources of the Nile."

 A receding equatorial glacier in Africa

          It is my opinion that these affects of the melting ice caps and glaciers and the consequent rising of the oceans is a big problem. Its just one of the ways that global warming is negatively affecting our environment and it affects are damaging to just about every nation on Earth, but also to Earth’s wildlife. It is our responsibility to identify the problem and stop it, so that no one has to have this affect their lives. The melting of glaciers and ice caps may not seem so damaging, but it’s a major warning sign of what can occur with global warming, and it affects every aspect of life on Earth.


By: Alec Hohensee
- Article on the melting of glaciers. - Information on the melting isle of Tuvalu and other "sinking islands".
-An article on the equatorial glaciers in Africa.   -How the greenhouse gases work.

Design by | Powered by |