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Glacial Melts - What are they?




An Introduction

With climate change proceeding at an alarming rate and global temperatures on the rise, glaciers are melting at increasing speeds. While the public may have some awareness of melting glaciers, many are still left uneducated about the significance of glaciers and how their continuing depletion heightens the risks of climate change. This article will inspect what the importance of ice glaciers, how they help regulate global temperature, and the rate at which they’re melting. 


What Is A Glacier and Why Are They Important?

Glaciers are ginormous blocks of moving ice that are formed as snow accumulates in cold areas and it compacts and recrystallizes (Iberdrola, 2024). Depending on how much ice is retained, it takes up to one millennium (one thousand years), to form a glacier (Iberdrola, 2024). Globally, glaciers range in age, some being several hundred to several thousand years old (Hancock, 2024). Ice acts as a protective layer around the Earth, as the cool, white surfaces on Earth help reflect heat back into the atmosphere. Glaciers also help provide scientists records on how climate has changed over time, especially through records of ocean currents. As glaciers are exponentially melting in Antarctica and Greenland, cold water enters through warm ocean water systems, which slows down ocean currents (Hancock, 2024). Glaciers melting also contribute to rising sea levels, due to the excessive amounts of cold water, mixed in with the warm water (Hancock, 2024).


The Significance of Glaciers Melting:

Today, approximately 10% of the Earth’s land is covered with glacial ice, 90% located in Antarctica, with the other 10% located in the Greenland ice cape (Hancock, 2024). However, the loss of ice has amounted to 335 billion tonnes per year, equating to 30% of the current ocean growth rate (Iberdrola, 2024). Due to glacial melting, there are four major problems that arise from the problem: rising sea levels, impact on the climate, disappearance of species and less fresh water (Iberdrola, 2024). Iberdrola, a global leader in renewable energy, states that glacial melting has contributed to rising sea levels by 2.7 centimetres since 1961. The global climate will be affected due to the mixing of warm and cold water, slowing down the ocean currents and the natural process of weather events. Several species, such as the polar bear will continue to deplete in numbers, as glaciers provide habitats for both land and aquatic animals. The depletion of glaciers will also lead to less fresh water available for the population and irrigation, as well as lower hydroelectric generation capacity (Iberdrola, 2024). 


Glacial Melts & Polar Bears

On the ever-diminishing Arctic glaciers, polar bears are facing a chilling reality check. These iconic symbols of the North are finding their frozen habitats melting away faster than ever before! Picture this: majestic polar bears, known for ruling the icy seas of the Arctic, are now forced to embark on marathon-length swims–which have been causing polar bears to drown for the first time in observed history–across vast stretches of open water (Center for Science Education, 2024). Their once solid hunting grounds reduced to unstable ice fragments. It’s a race against time for them.

But the challenges don’t stop there. With ice retreating, polar bears are finding themselves stranded on unfamiliar shores, far from their traditional habitats, making hunting exceptionally more challenging

(Center for Science Education, 2024). The consequences are dire: with a plummet in their food supply due to their unfamiliarity with the new environments, polar bears are starving. This leads to them either not being able to nurse their young, or frequenting the local dump, in the case of the polar bears which migrated to Churchill Manitoba. Aside from the problems with pathogens, it has been found that they are consuming micro plastic, potentially causing many health problems in both the adults and the cubs, endangering the species (Brown, 2022).

With polar bears now being listed as threatened by the US Endangered Species Act (Gardiner, 2008), it’s clear that we must take action, and fast. Without decisive measure to curb climate change we could see polar bear populations plummeting by a staggering 30% within a few short decades (Center for Science Education, 2024). It’s a wakeup call for all of us; a stark reminder of the toll our actions are taking on the ecosystems of our planet. By coming together and taking meaningful steps to reduce our carbon footprint, we can still turn the tide and ensure a brighter future for these magnificent creatures of the North. The time to act is now – before it's too late.


References 

Brown, H. (2022, October 6). Climate change could starve polar bears to extinction. euronews. https://www.euronews.com/green/2022/10/06/polar-bears-lose-up-to-2kg-per-day-as-climate-crisis-bites 

Education, U. C. for S. (2024, February 1). Center for Science Education. Polar Bears on Thin Ice | Center for Science Education. https://scied.ucar.edu/learning-zone/climate-change-impacts/polar-bears#:~:text=Polar%20bears%20are%20moving%20to,up%20with%20less%20to%20eat

Gardiner, L. (2008, May 15). Polar bears on thin ice. Polar Bears on Thin Ice - Windows to the Universe. https://www.windows2universe.org/earth/polar/polar_bears_jan07.html&edu=high

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