Earth Is Having An Ice Meltdown

Earth Is Having An Ice Meltdown

As per a review paper published in the journal Cryosphere Discussions, Earth has lost 28 trillion tons of ice in a period of 23 years (1994-2017). Why is this shocking rise happening? What does it mean for us in times ahead?

Crux of the Matter

28 Trillions Lost In Just 23 Years?
Scientists from the University College London analysed satellite surveys of glaciers, mountains, and ice sheets to conclude that 532 trillion litres of water has been added to the already rising sea levels during this time.

Techniques Used To Measure

  • Tide Gauges are a part of a modern water level monitoring station, and are fitted with sensors that continuously record the height of the surrounding water level.
  • Satellite Altimetry measures mostly an accurate change in sea level, in the center of the oceans relative to the earth’s center of mass. It can also observe the land movements from space.

Greenland Reaches It’s Tipping Point
The findings come after the researchers at Ohio State University discovered that the world’s second largest ice body, Greenland’s ice sheet, would continue to lose ice even if global temperatures stop rising.

Greenland’s ice is already the world’s single-most largest contributor to sea-level rise. With its current melt rate, it would add another 2.75 inches to global sea levels in another 80 years. Complete melting is estimated to be around the year 3000, leading to a rise of 23 feet sea levels.

Rising Global Temperatures To Blame?

The ice that’s discharging into the ocean surpasses the snow that’s accumulating on the surface of the ice sheet.

Michalea King, lead author & researcher at Byrd Polar & Climate Research Centre

According to NASA, 2010-2019 was the hottest decade ever recorded. In 2019, Greenland blocking, a high pressure over Canada that changes the northern jet stream, caused warm southern air to come up from the US and Canada to Greenland, forcing more melting.

Tectonic Shifts Play A Role Too
Local sea level rise varies by region and is mainly cause by local vertical land movements due to plate tectonics.

These tectonics are the large-scale motion of 7 large plates and the movements of a larger number of smaller plates of Earth’s lithosphere comprising of crust, mantle and core. In areas where the land is sinking, regional sea level rise will be greater, and in regions where the land is rising, sea level rise will be less severe.

Major Consequences To Look Out For
1. Increased water in coastal areas, causing soil erosion and threatening farmland, housing, or recreation areas. This shall affect the flora and fauna of each place.

2. Heavier rains and strong winds, that unleash severe storms and typhoons amongst other atmospheric phenomena threatening a loss of habitat.

3. Communities in low-lying islands would be forced to be displaced and large lands would start disappearing eventually.

A Hole In Ozone Layer Above Both Poles?
Ozone layer is a region of the stratosphere that absorbs most of the Sun’s harmful UV radiation and acts as a shield for us back on Earth.

In 1976, atmospheric research revealed that the ozone layer above the Arctic was being depleted by chemicals like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) used in industrial solvents and refrigerants, leading to ecological problems and diseases like skin cancer.

Now another hole has opened up in the ozone layer above Antarctica, making both the poles in danger of climate change. A stratospheric polar vortex, a band of strong, frigid winds circling the pole chewed away at the ozone layer.

Another Treaty Needed?
After the first hole, the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of such substances responsible for ozone depletion, was signed by 197 countries in 1987.

It got 9 revisions since then. UN also designated September 16 as the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer.

  • Pancake ice is a form of sea ice that consists of round pieces of ice with diameters ranging from 30 centimetres to 3 metres, depending on the local conditions. It is usually created by breaking ice rinds, nilas or even gray ice in the agitated conditions.
  • An aurora is a natural light display in the Earth’s sky, predominantly seen in high-latitude regions (around the Arctic and Antarctic). Auroras are the result of disturbances in the magnetosphere caused by solar wind.
  • In physical geography, tundra is a type of biome where the tree growth is hindered by low temperatures and short growing seasons. The term tundra comes from the Russian word for “treeless mountain tract”. There are three regions and associated types of tundra: Arctic tundra, alpine tundra and Antarctic tundra.