Science & Tech, World

The Antarctic Ice Sheet is Melting

Global warming: the ozone layer, the greenhouse effect, the poles melting, fossil fuels. A kind of old story by now. When the theory of global warming first came out, everyone would always talk about it, feel worried and scared. Since the 2000-2008 period, this topic was all over the news, thousands of magazine and newspaper articles. But people have been gradually starting to forget about it.

Most people now have continued their lives without worrying or having any concern about global warming and its effects. Why? The main reason why people don´t care is because they have realized that the most affecting and dramatic changes will occur in hundreds or even thousands of years, when even their grand children are dead.

Part of that is true, but not entirely. Even with mos of people´s uninvolvement, there has been a lot of buzz about a certain topic this year. The collapsing of the Antarctica ice sheets. Recent studies are showing what the future holds for this ice sheets. And no, this isn´t another one of the effects that will take hundreds of thousands of years to affect us. So how worried should people really be about the collapsing of the largest ice sheets in the world?

Even though in the past, Greenland has been the source of most melting glaciers, that appears to be changing, with more and more coming from the South Pole. Glaciers in Antarctica drain ice from the West Antarctica ice sheet into the sea. A team of the University of Washington studied one of the most important glaciers, the Thwaites, and the study showed that, unfortunately, the glacier is becoming unstable and that there is nothing we can do to stop the ice sheets from collapsing. The study also shows that early stages of the collapse have already started. The thinning cannot be stopped in any way, not even with drastic actions, the only thing we can do now is watch.

Multiple British satellites have shown that Antarctica is losing around 160 billion tonnes of ice per year, that is a very considerable amount of ice. And to make matters even worse than they already are, those tonnes are mainly from the West Antarctica sheets.

The main danger of these early stages is the effect they will have on the sea level rise. Global sea level has been rising since the 19th century. The average annual rate of global sea level rise accelerated from 1993 – 2008, increasing 65 – 90 percent above the twentieth century average. Antarctica so far has been only a small factor. The biggest factor to date is that seawater expands as it warms.

Now, the sea level could rise at least four feet if the ice sheets were to collapse completely. The disappearance of those ice sheets will most likely destabilize other sectors of the glaciers, so the ultimate rise could be triple that; the sea level could rise possibly up to fifteen feet.

The rising of sea level can be very very dangerous. Every single inch of sea level rise increases the risk of coastal flooding during a storm or high tide in coastal cities. This is very dangerous because more than 600 million people live in coastal regions that are less than ten meters above sea level. In a worst case scenario, Manhattan and Chicago could end up underwater. Other world cities that are most threatened by sea level rise are Shanghai, Miami, Alexandria, India, Vietnam and New Orleans.

Some island nations, like Maldives and Marshall Islands are in risk of losing their fresh water supplies if sea level rise pushes saltwater into their aquifers.

Even if these effects happen in a relatively short time, sea level has already affected us before and it keeps doing it, right now, at this moment. In 2012, when the Hurricane Sandy struck, approximately eighty thousand more people were affected by flooding in New York and New Jersey. They wouldn´t have died or gotten injured if there hadn´t been an increase in sea level.

The collapse of the ice sheets fortifies the need to focus more on the emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, water vapor, nitrous oxide, ozone and methane. This gases affect considerably the temperature of Earth. So the more greenhouses gases are emitted, the warmer the Earth will be. This accelerates the collapsing of the ice sheets even more.

Specialists say that there is nothing we can possibly do to stop the collapsing of the ice sheets, but cutting the greenhouse gases emission would definitely slow it down noticeably.

But given we have made so tiny progress on limiting our global carbon emissions, the odds are that the collapsing of the ice sheets will only accelerate. This gases have already made the Antarctica sheets unstable, but we can decide if we let any more effects set into motion, it is our call.

The decisions that we make in the present, will be the ones that determine how much more ice sheet will become unstable and how quickly. Like we said before, effects are already taking place. Since 2010, the loss of ice has doubled, that is the reason of why sea levels are rising so dramatically.

Bottom line, as almost everything else wrong with our planet, it is because of us. So if we were the ones to start this madness, we are the ones responsible of at least slowing it down. Because, at this point, the loss of glaciers like the Thwaites is now inevitable.

About Maricarmen Zolezzi

Maricarmen is a young woman living in Mexico, still going to school. She hopes to one day become a journalist, novel writer or anything that involves writing because she fascinated by how much power words have. She also hopes that one day, her words will have the power to influence positively anyone who reads them.

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