Polar Ice Cap Melting?
Are the Polar Ice Cap Melting?
The first question we need to look at is, are the Polar Ice Cap melting? There is on-going controversy about whether or not the Polar Ice Caps are melting.
Al Gore warned in 2009 at the UN Copenhagen Climate Change Conference that, “the entire polar ice cap … could be completely ice free within the next five to seven years”.
There seems to be convincing evidence, which we examine below, that the Polar Ice Caps are in fact melting, but the controversy doesn’t end there. If the Polar Ice Caps are melting what is the cause? Is the ice melt caused by global warming, or is it a natural event that is unrelated to global warming?
Evidence that Polar Ice Caps are melting
When one of the world’s most intrepid explorers, Will Steiger, returned to the Arctic Peninsula in 2002 after having crossed it by dogsled in 1989 and 1990, he was shocked at the change that had occurred over just 10 years.
“The ice shelf had totally disintegrated,” Steiger told reporters back at his home in Minnesota. “Last summer 50% of the ice was lost, which is a shock to even conservative scientists.”
Steiger is just one individual who has seen polar ice caps melting first hand. But he is not the only one.
Scientific evidence that Polar Ice Caps are melting
A huge and mounting collection of data, including satellite imaging and other scientific investigative missions to the poles, show conclusively that polar ice is going away fast. It’s a trend that has accelerated over the past 20 years.
Satellite Evidence that Polar Ice Caps are Melting.
Direct human observation is only confirming what cutting edge technologies are showing with hard data. Space-Based Platforms are collecting precise data that show that the Polar Ice Caps are melting. An example of one such technology is, the U.S. National Aeronautic Space Administration, or NASA’s, ICEsats launched in 2003. The ICEsats collected data from satellites in space until 2010 using laser altimeter systems to make extremely precise measurements of ice sheet mass balance, and also the nature of cloud density over the polar regions. What they found is the same thing that observers on the ground have observed– polar ice caps melting at a rapid rate.
Polar Ice Caps losing 36.3 billion tons of ice a year
According to another study conducted by NASA released in March 2011, the combined ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland are losing 36.3 billion more tons of ice on average every year. The study was led by Eric Rignot of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The study also predicted that if polar ice cap melting continues at this pace, sea levels worldwide will continue to rise, and a sea level increase of six inches is possible by year 2050. Six inches does not seem like much, but the reality is that a sea level rise of this amount means that whole islands will sink under water, beaches will disappear and many coastline areas now inhabited will be under water. There will also be more flooding events, and more natural disasters, NASA scientists say.
U.S. Secretary Says Warns on Polar Ice Caps Melting
In 2010 U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon embarked on a trip to the Arctic Circle to personally observe the effects of polar ice cap melting. In Norway, Moon boarded a Norwegian coast guard vessel for a trek into Arctic water. He called what he observed “alarming.”
“If this trend is not stopped, the Arctic regions could be virtually ice free in 30 years,” Ban told the BBC. “This is quite alarming, therefore it is absolutely crucial that world leaders are united to take urgent action.”
Of course, the issue surrounding global warming and polar ice caps melting has become one of the most incredibly controversial issues of our time. Emotions surrounding the climate change debate are among the most heated and rancorous topic the day.
Climate Change Skeptics
While the vast majority of professional climate scientists say the evidence is overwhelming that polar ice caps melting is being driven by human activity – the burning of carbon-based fuels – there is a small group of skeptics whom have been effective in efforts to steer the dialog away from a human-caused global warming theory.
Even so, some of the most severe critics of global warming theory admit that the earth is warming, and that polar ice caps melting is happening; however, skeptics say the trend has little to do with human activity, and that the earth has undergone periods or cycles of warming naturally more than once over the past millions of years.
The Bottom Line is Polar Ice Is Melting
Whatever the cause, there is little doubt that polar ice is disappearing at a rapid rate. The final affect it will all have planet-wide continues to be an evolving scenario.
Consequences of Polar Ice Cap Melting
In addition to rising sea levels, polar ice caps melting will also mean the loss of many species of animal. Polar bears are already said to be threatened as their natural environment goes from ice to open sea and dry land. But as oceans rise around the world, and planetary temperatures rise, tens of thousands of species located anywhere in the glove may see radical changes in their natural environment, which may cause some species to become extinct.
The study of polar ice caps melting must be a central factor in the overall study of climate change, and it will almost certainly remain an area of extreme controversy for years to come.
We can only hope that Al Gore’s warning that the Polar Ice Caps may disappear completely does not come true.