Tipping Points in Detail | Melting Ice (Ep 3/3)

We see pictures of emaciated polar bears every day and pity their fate – they are a living example of the sad reality in the Arctic. Yes, we pity them, but we often don’t realise that the melting of Arctic ice is just as damaging to us as it is to them.

It turns out that the Arctic will be affected by climate change twice as much as other parts of the world. The Arctic is a kind of circulatory system of the planet that plays a massive role in shaping the world’s climate.

In the last 50 years, about 50% of the ice in the Arctic has melted. It is common knowledge that snow traps and reflects the sun’s rays. However, when the Arctic turns “blue”, the sun’s rays can no longer be remembered to the same extent, and the heat is absorbed, further melting. As a result, the green area in the Arctic grows, and a completely different, warmer climate forms, which eventually leads to further ice melting and causes sea levels to rise.

In addition, warming and thawing of the permafrost (frozen land) lead to the release of methane, which accumulates in the ice and is one of the leading concentrated greenhouse gases. Thus, greenhouse gases lead to the depletion of the ozone layer – the sun’s ultraviolet rays hit the earth directly. As a result, the temperature is increasingly rising. In the Arctic itself, biodiversity is also at stake as the livelihoods of the animals change – polar bears are a good example.

The Arctic is an accurate indicator of the global climate. And what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic – what happens here directly impacts the entire planet. In this context, global warming is a real problem, and if it is not taken care of, the world will face tremendous problems.

A short excursion:

The West Antarctic Ice Sheet:
Located predominantly on and under the sea, it is directly exposed to ocean warming and is melting rapidly. The result would be a sea-level rise of 3 to 3.5m. Places/islands like the Maldives will disappear from the map (highest point 2.4m above sea level).

The East Antarctic Ice Sheet:
The largest freshwater reserves in the frozen form here are mainly below sea level. Analogous to the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, a total loss also threatens the warming of the oceans here. A rise in sea level of a further 3 to 4m would be the consequence here.

The Greenland Ice Sheet:
This ice giant loses mass faster than it can rebuild in winter during the summer period. The ice moves further into more deep and thus warmer air layers and accelerates the thawing process. Also, the total loss would be unavoidable with a temperature rise of 2 to 3 degrees. The sea level rises by about 7m.

The Arctic ice:
Due to the temperature increase of about 2 degrees since the 1970s, the ice lying on the sea has decreased by about 40%. The ice cover is getting thinner and thinner, accelerating the melting. A sea-level rise of 1m is already predicted by the end of the century.


All the parts of our series:

  1. Amazon Rainforest
  2. Ocean Currents
  3. Melting Ice