Melting of Glaciers: Ablation

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It’s practically impossible to watch the news without hearing something about global warming and how it is affecting the Earth’s Polar Regions. Sea levels are rising and our coastal regions are threatened due to a process called glacial ablation. Increased glacial ablation at continental ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica is being caused by climate change. A basic knowledge of glacial ablation and how it works can help make sense of the various scientific theories concerning climate change and global warming.

Ablation is when snow and ice are lost from either a glacier, floating ice, or snow cover. This can occur through the processes of melting, evaporation, sublimation, erosion, or calving, and takes place mainly in the warmer summer months. In the lower and middle latitudes, ablation mainly happens through melting, but in higher latitudes where it never gets above freezing, ablation occurs through a process called sublimation. Sublimation allows snow to turn into water vapor without turning into a liquid first.

Calving is a very important and efficient method of glacial ablation. Calving is when pieces of a tidewater glacier or an ice shelf break off and float away as icebergs. This method helps to stabilize the extent of an ice sheet.

Glaciers and their Destructive Consequences

In a phenomenon that is not recent but whose consequences have been worsening in recent times, the melting of glaciers is causing great changes in the climatic and biological conditions of our planet, by increasing water surface levels and reducing Areas.

Recent studies have found that both Antarctica and the Arctic Ocean melting glacier ice has accelerated and has now reached an unprecedented rate.

The situation in the Arctic

Glaciers in Arctic Region
ISTOCKPHOTO /THINKSTOCK

During spring and summer in the Arctic, water ponds are formed on the ice due to the melting of the same, giving the landscape a range of glowing blue. Despite the visual beauty of this phenomenon , a recent study by researchers at a German institute found that these ever-present water tanks are an omen of the great climatic changes that await the Arctic Ocean .

These water pools that form on ice absorb the heat of the sun to a greater degree, thus generating a more rapid melting. It can be said that there are two classes of total ice in the Arctic: new ice, a thin, smooth layer formed during the last cold seasons, and a thicker, more rugged, longer layer remaining there Even in hot seasons.

What the study has shown is that this thick layer has been getting smaller and smaller, leaving new ice formations, which favor the formation of water ponds with their smooth surface. So with more pools of water absorbing the heat of the sun, the faster the total melting of the ice, in a very worrying cycle.

The situation in Antarctica

Glaciers in Antarctica
INGRAM PUBLISHING / THINKSTOCK

In Antarctica, the main concern comes from the long-melting Pine Island Glacier and contributing to the rising ocean level. In recent years, the rapid retreat suffered by this glacier led many to think that it could collapse at any time, releasing the layers of ice that currently dampen so they could float to southern seas.

In the last 20 years, the line separating the rocky base of the ocean glacier has been retreating at a rate of more than one kilometer per year; While the glacier itself has been reduced by 3 meters every two years since 1990 and this frequency has increased by 30% for 10 years. These values ​​are truly exceptional, considered in the long term.

The global warming becomes an issue that requires greater attention from governments and human beings in general . The consequences of this phenomenon could be harmful. To continue the increase in the speed of thawing, the planet would lose much of its habitable surface, generating several conflicts, this coupled with the changes that are still being investigated in the living conditions of all organisms on the planet that alter ecosystems And the biosphere in general.

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