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How do melting glaciers impact the environment?

Glaciers are a crucial element of the world's ecosystem. But like many aspects of the natural world, they are becoming increasingly threatened by the consequences of climate change. Glaciers are typically located in polar regions and at high elevations in mountains like the Himalayas where the climate is cool and conducive to the conditions required to form them.At the current moment, 10% of the world's landmass is occupied by glaciers, with most in areas like Antarctica, Greenland, and Northern Canada. In a way, they're leftover remnants from the last ice age, when ice covered nearly a third of the Earth.

Today, the main reason glaciers have begun to melt is because of climate change, and this climate change can be directly tied back to human activity. Things have gotten bad enough that glaciers are practically on the edge of extinction.

Carbon dioxide emissions are the main culprit as well as the increasing temperatures of the oceans. These large bodies of water absorb 90% of the Earth's total warmth, meaning that sea ice floating in the ocean is subject to higher temperatures and naturally melt as a result.

As a result of all the broader climate change effects, glaciers are rapidly melting with huge chunks falling off into the sea, while elsewhere the ice begins to retreat to land. This has been happening since the industrial revolution, but as emissions have continued to increase the issue has only become increasingly amplified. If emissions rise without reduction, then the Arctic could be completely devoid of ice in summer as soon as the year 2040.

The biggest and most notable impact of these glaciers melting is in the rise of sea level. In total the sea has risen by 2.7 centimetres since the 60s and the world's glaciers still contain enough water to raise the ocean by another half a metre, which would directly threaten many cities in coastal regions. As a result of these rising sea levels, coastal erosion has also increased,storm surges become more prevalent, with warm air and ocean temperatures combining to increase the frequency of coastal storms. There is also a self-perpetuating climate effect, where the loss of ice leads to warmer global temperatures. This extends even further than just the climate, as slowing oceanic currents are directly tied to a series of harsh weather occurrences throughout the globe. Species are also at risk, many land and sea animals rely on glaciers as their natural habitats and as they disappear so does the rich ecological life they shelter.

If CO2 emissions can be reduced by 45% over the next ten years, before falling to zero by 2050, then glaciers can still be saved. More targeted measures may also be required such as building large dams around glaciers to slow erosions from arctic melting. It might also be possible to create artificial icebergs by taking the water from melting glaciers and refreezing and combining them. The final solution is to create more ice. By taking ice from below the glacier and then spreading it on top, it will refreeze and increase the strength of the glacier.



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