LEARN-ICE

You make my ice cap melt

The melting of the ice caps is a dangerous slippery slope

Ice caps are extra thick layers of ice and snow that cover most of the North and South Poles of the Earth. These vast regions are covered in ice because they receive less solar energy (due to the angle of sunlight reaching our Earth). The ice in the Arctic is necessary for maintaining an overall balanced temperature but, as the ice caps are melting, this harmonious balance seems more and more precarious. The melting of the polar ice may be another major factor involved in global warming: besides offering shelter to polar bears and seals, ice caps help maintain sea levels and temperature. Scientists estimate that if the Greenland Ice Sheet melted the sea level would rise about 6 meters.

So when is the next ice age?

If you love the sea you may think it’s a great thing that we have more of it, but the melting of ice caps unfortunately is far from fun news, here’s why: white snow and ice reflect heat back into space, and so far the ice caps have helped enormously in keeping the balance with other parts of the planet that absorb heat. If the ice caps melt the heat is not reflected and that means more and more intense heat waves worldwide. But it also means extreme winters: the polar wind is destabilised by warmer air and it heads south, bringing piercing with it. 

The melting of ice caps touches every single aspect of the environment cycle: communities on the coasts are affected by it because of floodings and storm surges. Even the crops and therefore the global food systems is seriously damaged by this phenomenon, not to mention the wildlife that is constantly threatened. But the most unexpected risk is posed by the permafrost that stores large amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas that if released into the atmosphere may contribute significantly to global warming….and to more thawing.