The polar regions are important drivers of the world’s climate. When the “everlasting ice” melts at an increasing rate, the rest of the world is affected. Global sea levels are rising, dark meltwater pools absorb warmth from the sun which white ice would reflect back into space. Fresh water flows into the sea, changing ocean currents and the living conditions for marine organisms.
Antarctica has lost ice for the whole of the past 20 years. In addition to the relative proportions of ice that have been lost in the northern and southern hemispheres, we can also see there’s been a definitive acceleration of ice loss in last 20 years. So together Antarctica and Greenland are now contributing three times as much ice to sea levels as they were 20 years ago. Melting ice from both poles has been responsible for a fifth of the global rise in sea levels since 1992, 11 millimeters in all. The rest was caused by the thermal expansion of the warming ocean, the melting of mountain glaciers, small Arctic ice caps and groundwater mining. The share of the polar ice melt, however, is rising.
Greenland is melting fastest.
Although the Greenland ice sheet is only about one tenth the size of Antarctica, today it is contributing twice as much ice to sea levels. Greenland is certainly the larger player, probably just because it is at a more equatorial latitude, further from the North pole than Antarctica from the South pole. The ice on Greenland is also melting on the surface, because of increasing air temperatures.
If the Greenland ice sheet were to melt completely, sea levels could rise by seven meters.
“ I’ve seen melting ice caps with my own eyes and got very wet in the process. But, as a passionate promoter of economic, social and environmental sustainability, it is pointless campaigning against climate change or to ‘save the Arctic’ without addressing the root cause behind it and virtually every other environmental or indeed social issue we face: our unsustainable numbers on this planet. That is the real inconvenient truth.”
Adrian Hayes World-famous adventurer and sustainability ambassador