Essay on Melting the Ice and Rising Seas

Published: 2021/12/02
Number of words: 637

Global warming is a result of rapid industrialization in the past century. As a result, global warming has increased the temperature of the earth’s surface, and 80% of which is absorbed by the ocean due to the large surface area. According to scientists, there are three primary reasons behind rising sea levels, thermal expansion of seawater, melting of polar ice caps and glaciers, and loss of ice from West Antarctica and Greenland (Nuccitelli).

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The entire Antarctica ice sheet comprises two different ice sheets, East and West, separated by a mountain range. Among these two, East Antarctica Ice Sheets are relatively stable compared to West Antarctica Ice Sheets (Nuccitelli). Therefore, the focus of research is on the West Antarctica Ice Sheets. The West Antarctica Ice Sheet is commonly known as WAIS, which lies below sea level. The floating of ice occurs at the grounding line whereas, ice shelves are formed as the ice starts to float since the buoyant thickness is equal to the edge thickness of the ice sheet. Eventually, ice shelves are broken into the ‘calved iceberg’ (Pattyn).

Further research has been conducted to understand the nature of collapse in WAIS and the corresponding effect on sea-level rise. However, the numbers claimed by researchers contradict each other due to the method of analysis (Pattyn). According to Goldenberg (2014), the sea level would rise to 13 feet in upcoming years due to the collapse of WAIS; on the other hand, NASA claims that the rise will be up to 5 feet by 2100 based on the simulation model. The research conducted by another group using a semi-empirical approach claims that the sea level would rise to 3 feet, give or take 1 foot by 2100, depending upon the level of pollution. It has been agreed that the rise in sea level is inevitable even after achieving the conditions of the Paris agreement as large ice sheets such as WAIS continue to melt for 1000 years (Nuccitelli).

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Most of the models are incapable of producing the viable prediction of the ice sheet collapse and rising sea level due to the assumption made in theory. For example, Marine Ice Sheet Instability (MISI) theory is based on the observation of ice floating from grounding lines and separating by forming shelves causing instability of the outer ice sheet. This theory was tested by many ice sheet models and disputed when glaciers from WAIS started to separate into the ocean as the theory is only valid for open ice shelves and does not provide a prediction for the entire ice sheet (Pattyn).

The damage to the environment has already been done due to various man-made activities such as deforestation and fossil fuel burning. The sea level has been rising since the 1880s; however, it has been accelerated to 1 inch every eight years in recent years. The predicted sea-level rise is disastrous for humans, especially those living near the shores. Approximately 147 to 216 million may lose their land or face regular flooding due to the sea level rise by 2100 (Nuccitelli). Humanity has three options in their basket: mitigating the effects of rising sea levels by rapidly reducing the pollution and carbon footprint, adapting to sea-level rise by taking precautionary measures such as sea barriers, and suffering means losing homes due to regular floods. Precaution is always better than cure; therefore, cumulative efforts from the entire society are needed to reduce global warming, which eventually results in a slowdown of WAIS melting and reduction in predicted sea-level rise.

Work cited

Nuccitelli, Dana. “How Much and How Fast Will Global Sea Level Rise?”. Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists, vol 74, no. 3, 2018, pp. 139-141. Informa UK Limited, doi:10.1080/00963402.2018.1461894.

Pattyn, Frank. “The Paradigm Shift in Antarctic Ice Sheet Modelling.” Nature Communications, vol 9, no. 1, 2018. Springer Nature, doi:10.1038/s41467-018-05003-z.

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