Ice Caps Melting

The Ice Caps Melting

Are global warming and the greenhouse effect causing the ice to melt and the
sea levels to rise? Antarctica and Greenland hold a good population of the world’s
ice in the ocean. The article, “Answers to sea level rise locked in ice” by
Jack Williams of USA Today, describes what is happening with the polar ice caps,
and how it is going to effect the world. Williams compares the amount of ice in
Antarctica to the size of “USA’s 48 contiguous states and half of Mexico.”
Antarctica is a total of 5.4 million square miles. It has 91 percent of the
world’s ice and 70 percent of the globe’s fresh water. The worst-case
scenario would be all of Antarctica’s ice melting, which would raise the sea
level by about 200 feet. However, Antarctica is not said to become warm enough
to do this for well over hundreds of years.

Antarctica has two main sheets of ice that would pose a threat to the world:
the West Antarctic Ice Sheets and the East Antarctic Ice Sheets. Together the
East and the West ice sheets hold about 91 percent of the world’s glacial ice.
The west Antarctic ice sheet is south of the Pacific Ocean, and holds 11 percent
of the ice that sits on the continent, and is mostly below sea level. Therefore,
the west Antarctic ice sheet poses a bigger threat than the East because the
West’s bottom is mostly below the sea level. Every year ice spreads through
Antarctica and moves towards the edges. The ice from the West Antarctic sheets
moves mostly onto the Ross and Ronne ice shelves, which are floating on the
ocean. Williams says that if the shelves melt, it will cause large parts of the
ice-sheets to break off and melt into the sea. If the two ice sheets should melt
the sea level would rise 200-260 feet. This would endanger a large portion of
the population and reshape the world’s coastlines, as well as change the world’s
temperatures. The ice works as a cooling source for the world – without it the
summers would be increasingly hotter.

There are many scientists working in Antarctica trying to figure out how long
it will be for the ice sheets to collapse. There are satellites that can
determine the location of the ice and the ice’s pattern of movement. Drills
are also being used to look at the ice from the bottom up. This method allows
the scientists to see any changes in the ice due to the weather patterns that
have occurred over thousands of years ago. By studying these previous changes,
scientist can use their findings to make future hypothesis on the pattern of the
ice sheets. Is there more or less ice? And how much more or less? It was found
that the ice sheets are losing ice from around its edges. However because of the
constant snowfall and low temperatures, there has been neither large-scale gain
nor loss of ice.

The main reason that the ice glaciers of the world would melt is do to the
increasing temperature of the world. These increasing temperatures are caused by
global warming and the greenhouse effect. Technology and human activities such
as the burning of coal and oil raise the level of heat trapping gasses. It is
said that the twentieth century has been the warmest century in time do to the
increase of these human activities and if it continues to go on like this there
is no doubt that it will contribute to the melting of the ice caps. There are
too many people and too limited natural resources. “Experts have said for some
time that a warming atmosphere has caused many mountain glaciers around the
world to shrink,” found William Stevens of New York Times.

Greenland, the second largest land covered with ice (Antarctica being the
first), is having the same problems with losing its ice. These ice sheets cover
85 percent of the island. In Greenland snow falls all year long and the
temperature rarely rises above freezing, so almost none of the snow melts. The
mountains, which surround most of the coast of Greenland, block the ice from
reaching the sea. After many experiments scientists have discovered that
Greenland is losing ice around the edge of the ice sheets (USA Today). The
melting of ice in Greenland has not been as intensely studied as the melting of
ice in Antarctica, so at this point it is too soon to make any conclusions about
Greenland’s patterns of melting ice. Since there has been no past