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Global Warming and Melting of Polar Ice Sheets Research Paper

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Updated: Apr 10th, 2020


There is a significant amount of scientific data that supports the claim of global warming. Scientists from all over the world are working together and integrating the results of simultaneous studies. The collaboration of the different scientists allowed them to make the claim that due to global warming, there is an average increase in temperatures in recent decades (Lunine 2013). They also noted that the impact of global warming was the melting of polar ice sheets.

Due to the melting of the polar ice sheets, a considerable amount of water was free from the giant’s block of ice. Thus, it gave way to rising sea levels, shrinking polar ice, and retreating glaciers (Lunine 2013). It is important to know the direct effect of melting ice and rising sea levels, especially when it comes to communities that can be found near shorelines.

It is also important to find out if the melting polar ice sheets contributed to summers that are seen to be growing hotter, as well as weather events are perceived to be more unpredictable (Casper 2010). Another important discovery made in recent decades was the realization that global warming is more likely the byproduct of human activity.

Global Warming

Modern men and women are used to a certain lifestyle. They cannot survive without the constant presence of electronic gadgets. In many households all over the United States, families are used to the comfort brought about by air-conditioning systems. In large cities characterized by concrete jungles and superhighways, the residents use cars like other people use bicycles. In other words, the vehicles that they own are not considered as items of luxury, because these are items of necessity.

Aside from cars and motorbikes, modern men and women love to travel using modern transportation systems like cruise ships, large aircraft, and trains. All these transportation systems and electronic gadgets require fossil fuel to run. The petroleum products that are needed to produce electricity gives off harmful byproducts in the form of greenhouse gases.

Global warming is made possible by the excess amount of greenhouse gases or GHG in the Earth’s atmosphere (Webersik 2010). If one will take a closer look at GHG, he will find out that the major component is carbon dioxide. This is the same gas that human exhale in the process of breathing. However, GHG like carbon dioxide has a unique property that enables it to trap the heat from the sun’s rays.

In order to understand the dynamics at work in global warming, it is best to observe a real-life greenhouse, the structure that botanists construct in order to raise high-value crops all throughout the year.

In other words, due to the conventional design of a greenhouse, the farmer can plant crops that normally would not survive during the winter months. The heat that was trapped using glass materials and other related structures allow the plants to live comfortably even if the temperatures outside the greenhouse hovered near the freezing point.

Scientists all over the world are in agreement that the Earth’s surface temperature has risen more than 1.1 degrees Fahrenheit or 0.7 degrees Celsius (National Center for Atmospheric Research 2015). In 2007, scientists tracking the impact of global warming made the assertion that it is the root cause of retreating glaciers in Latin America, and the cause of elevated sea levels in coastal regions.

It must be made clear that glaciers are dynamic systems (Kusky 2009). Glaciers are always moving due to the influence of gravity and changing global climate (Kusky 2009). Therefore, the behavior of glaciers can be used to determine the impact of global climate change. A glacier is an example of a large concentration of ice.

However, the largest forms of ice on Earth are ice sheets and ice caps. For example, ice sheets are huge masses of ice. It is described as continent-sized masses of ice that covers Greenland and Antarctica (Kusky 2009). The ice sheets that cover Greenland and Antarctica are two of the largest glaciers on this planet. It must be pointed out that the glaciers found in this region contain about 95 percent of all the glaciers on Earth (Kusky 2009).

There is mounting evidence to show that polar ice caps or ice sheets are melting. One of the direct evidence for this phenomenon is the rising sea levels. Scientists are in agreement that if global warming continues unabated, the end result would be a considerable rise in sea levels that could reach up to 230 feet or 66 meters (Kusky 2009).

This piece of news may not be a cause for concern for people living in elevated areas or those that lived far from the sea. However, those who are living in coastal areas, those who are residents of small islands, this information is highly disconcerting for them. Consider the impact of 100 feet of increase in current water levels. A hundred feet of water can easily submerge a house or building.

Global warming contributes to the melting of the ice caps because polar glaciers are formed when the mean average temperature lies below freezing (Kusky 2009). This is the reason why large masses of ice are formed in regions that are far from the direct impact of the sun’s rays. It is important to point out that in this part of the world, the glaciers have little or no seasonal melting because this area is always below freezing (Kusky 2009).

Melting of Polar Ice Sheets

Scientists are worried when they examine current data concerning global warming. They sounded the alarm as early as 2005 when they found out that the Arctic ice can be utilized as an early warning system when it comes to a significant increase in temperature (Ferrey 2010).

A group of researchers discovered that in the winter of 2004 and 2005 a chunk of ice that was measured as large as the country of Turkey cracked and fell into the sea (Ferrey 2010). If the melting and cracking of large glaciers continue unabated, and the rate of melting is not reversed, scientists predicted that at least 40% of perennial ice cap will disappear in the year 2050 (Ferrey 2010).

Disturbing reports are coming in, and it compelled many interest groups to work together to reverse the impact of global warming. It was discovered that 552 billion tons of ice melted from Greenland during the 2007 period (Ferrey 2010). Researchers utilized satellite data, and they found out that a record amount of surface ice was lost over Greenland in 2007 (Ferrey 2010). There was a 12% increase in the amount of ice that melted when they compared data from the 2005 period.

When they compared data that was recorded in the early part of the 1990s, they found out that it was four times the amount that was melted during that period. In order to gain perspective on the seriousness of the problem, the amount of ice that melted could have covered Washington, D.C. (Oerlemans and Fortuin 1992).

Scientists saw the tell-tale signs of global warming when they realized that Arctic ice took longer to form and melted earlier than expected (Casper 2010). According to the Yukon Conservation Society, the darker water around the edge of the glaciers absorbs the heat from the sun and quickly melts away (Casper 2010).

Thus, the darker area gets bigger (Casper 2010). When this happens, the larger area absorbs more heat. As a result, more ice will melt. Scientists discovered that there are many shrinking glaciers over the past 50 years (Casper 2010).

They also found out that the surface area of summer sea ice floating in the Arctic Ocean in 2007 was more than 20% below the previous record (Ferrey 2010). Researchers asserted that the rapid melting of glaciers has affected wildlife. For example, 6,000 walruses were compelled to walk ashore in Northwest Alaska in 2007 (Ferrey 2010). This was the first time that they walked into shore in recorded history (Ferrey 2010).

Global warming is causing the rapid melting of the polar ice caps and ice sheets. However, the melted ice contributes to the cycle of degradation, because white sea ice reflects about eighty percent of the sun’s heat off the Earth (Ferrey 2010). The rapid disappearance of sea ice means that heat is not reflected back, thus, the oceans will absorb the heat of the sun. When this happens, the oceans will be warmer, and this will exacerbate the problem.

Impact of Melting Polar Ice Sheets

It is imperative to maintain a high amount of glacial ice on Earth (Spalding 2010). Aside from the fact that polar caps and ice sheets help reflect the sun’s rays, it is also instrumental when it comes to the storage of fresh water (Spalding 2010). When the level of freshwater increases due to the melted glaciers, the excess amount of water will endanger the communities in coastal areas. There are many islanders all over the world that will be affected by the impact of melting ice caps.

There are also key cities around the world that are built near bodies of water. For example, cities like New York, New Orleans, and Amsterdam are in danger of massive flooding when ice caps continue to melt unabated (Spalding 2010). There are also a significant number of small island nations that are only a few feet above sea level (Spalding 2010). The radical rise in sea levels means that these islands will be submerged in water in the near future.

Cities and small island nations that prone to massive flooding will be forced to evacuate its residents. When this happens, a massive migration of people will affect the economy of neighboring nations. Another problematic impact of rising sea levels is the possibility of contaminating freshwater sources (Spalding 2010). Water from ice caps contains salt.

The habitats of certain species will be affected by the melting ice caps (Rosser 2008). For example, scientists found out that several polar bears drowned because they were forced to swim greater distances (Spalding 2010). They needed to travel between ice floes (Spalding 2010).


Scientists are alarmed by the rapid degradation of the environment, as seen by the disappearance of sea ice, melting ice sheets, and melting polar caps. They voiced out their concerns because ice caps and ice sheets are important regulators of the Earth’s ecosystem. For example, ice is known to reflect the sun’s rays. Thus, ice played a major part in regulating the Earth’s temperature. The rapid decline in the amount of glacier and sea ice means that there is less ice that could reflect the sun’s rays.

This means that the disappearance of glaciers contributes significantly to global warming. The rapid melting of sea ice contributes to a vicious cycle, and at the end, more ice is melted. The impact of melting polar caps and ice sheets is an environmental disaster that will affect the lives of people all over the planet. It must be made clear that the ice caps in the Antarctic regions of the Earth are also massive storage areas of freshwater.

Thus, when ice caps are melted at an abnormal rate, more freshwater is dumped into the oceans. When this happens, sea levels will rise significantly. A sudden rise in sea levels will cause massive flooding in cities that were built near the seashore. There are cities and small nations that are a few feet above sea level. Thus, the rapid rise of sea levels will dramatically increase the probability that these population centers will be submerged in water.

When this happens, the threat of massive flooding will trigger a mass migration of people. The mass migration of people will negatively affect the economy of neighboring nations, a well as territories that are above sea level. The disappearance of glaciers will negatively affect the habitats of wildlife. Thus, the rapid melting of polar ice caps will affect every aspect of human life.


Casper, J., 2010: Global Warming Cycles: Ice Ages and Glacial Retreat. Facts on File, Inc., 106 pp.

Ferrey, S., 2010: Unlocking Global Warming Tool Box. PennWell Corporation, 319 pp.

Kusky, T., 2009: Climate Change: Shifting Glaciers, Deserts, and Climate Belts. Facts on File, Inc., 143 pp.

Lunine, J., 2013: Earth: Evolution of a Habitable World. Cambridge University Press, 267 pp.

National Center for Atmospheric Research, cited 2014: References. Web.

Oerlemans, J., and Fortuin, J, 1992: Sensitivity of glaciers and small ice caps to greenhouse warming. Science Journal, 258, 115-117.

Rosser, S., 2008: The A-Z of Global Warming. Gardner Books, 255 pp.

Spalding, F., 2010: Catastrophic Climate Change and Global Warming. Rosen Publishing, 64 pp.

Webersik, C., 2010: Climate Change and Security. ABC-CLIO, 163 pp.

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