Ice is a protective layer that covers the oceans and our Earth. Excess heat is reflected into space by these bright reflective spots that help keep the Earth cooler. In general, the Arctic remains colder than the planet’s center due to the ice reflecting the sun’s radiation and sending it back into the atmosphere.
The root cause of glaciers and sea ice melting is human activities. Greenhouse gasses and carbon dioxide have filled the environment since the industrial revolution. These gas emissions have caused many problems, such as increased temperature (even in the Arctic circles), resulting in the rapid melting of glaciers.
What Are Glaciers and Sea Ice?
Sea ice melts and forms in the open ocean where glaciers are land-based. Icebergs are pieces of glacier ice that break off and fall into the sea.
The melting of a glacier causes a large amount of water to get transferred from land to ocean, contributing to rising global sea levels.
On the other hand, when sea ice melts, it does not directly change the water in the ocean, and that is because sea ice is formed in the sea, not on land.
It’s good to note that triggering these glaciers collapses can devastate the environment. By altering the pattern of the ocean’s jet stream, glacier melts can change weather conditions, affect walrus hauls, and disturb polar bear hunts.
Why Are Glaciers Melting?
Many glaciers around the world have been rapidly melting since the early 1900s. The root of this phenomenon is human activities such as greenhouse gas emissions that come from various products we use every day.
Studies show that if emissions continue to rise by 2040, the Arctic may be ice-free in the summer. The planet’s ocean and air temperatures increase rapidly without the polar caps.
How Are Glaciers and Sea Ice Formed?
There are places on Earth where snow builds up and melts each year, and these locations are the birthplace of Glaciers. It becomes denser and more compressed after the snow has fallen, getting more tightly packed over time.
Over time it slowly molds from light, fluffy crystals to rigid round ice balls that help form the structure of the glacier. Even new snowfall buries the powdery snow, compressing the glacier and adding to its body.
When ocean water is cooled below its freezing temperature, which is -2 degrees Celsius or -29 degrees Fahrenheit, it starts to form sea ice. This kind of ice extends over a significant ocean area and appears seasonally.
In most cases, sea ice forms in rough waters as sea ice crashes into cooling ocean water. Then, on the top layer of the ocean, the water is supercooled by atmospheric changes and causes the forming of tiny ice platelets (frazil ice).
After some time, the surface becomes mushy through this process. It is also known as grease ice and is the foundation for sea ice to form.
What Is the Effect of Melting Glaciers on Sea Levels?
The melting of glaciers causes coastal erosions and elevations in storm surges in the sea. In addition, ocean temperatures and warming air create more intense and frequent coastal storms like typhoons or hurricanes.
Furthermore, the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are significant contributors to rising sea levels, melting five times faster than in 2004. It already contributes an additional 25% to the current sea level.
The speed at which the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets may melt in the future is primarily dependent on human emission use.
If all the Greenland ice sheets melted, the sea levels may rise by up to 25 feet!
How Does Melting Sea Ice and Glaciers Change Weather Patterns?
The Arctic sea ice has been melting by more than 10% every year for the last 10 years. Today, the Arctic circle is one of the places warming the fastest. Moreover, when ice begins to melt, it opens up darker patches in the ocean that do not reflect the sun radiation efficiently, warming the Arctic region even more.
This disturbs the standard patterns of the ocean’s circulation, especially when warmer air temperatures enter the area. Changes in the jet stream have caused a polar vortex to appear outside the Arctic circle more frequently. It is caused by changing ocean temperatures and warming the air in the tropics and Arctic.
Glacial melting in Greenland and Antarctica is changing the circulation of the Atlantic Ocean daily. It has also been linked to more destructive storms around the planet and collapsed fisheries in the Gulf of Maine.
What Is the Effect of Melting Glaciers and Sea Ice on Wildlife and Humans?
When the glaciers and sea ice melt in these areas, consequences can be felt worldwide. The sea ice and glaciers melting combined with the ocean current disrupts weather globally.
Warm water also affects industries that rely on vibrant fisheries to stay open and provide their services. In addition, flooding has become a problem with coastal communities facing billion-dollar recovery disasters due to intense storms or flash floods.
These storms’ frequency and size are increasing, a big concern for human and animal populations worldwide. Unfortunately, people are not the only ones impacted by climate change!
Wildlife like the walruses lose their homes as sea ice in the Arctic melts. When polar bears spend more time on land, it causes higher conflict rates between bears and people. Other coastal animals not in the Arctic region can also be affected as their homes are torn apart by storms or rising waters (forcing them to move).
Sea ice and glaciers are melting at an alarming rate and are one of the leading causes of our planet’s climate change. It has affected the Earth since the industrial revolution in the 19th century.
If humans don’t take a step back to give our Earth a break from carbon emissions, we may not have a suitable home for our children’s children. So please do your part in environmental conservations and limit your greenhouse gas usage where ever possible.