The world is getting warmer, and it’s having an impact on all corners of the globe. Some of the areas most affected by the rising temperatures are at both Antarctica and Greenland. However, all around the world the glaciers are melting, and we have some photos that prove it.
It seems every year we hear that some part of the world has just recorded a new record high temperature. This is Trift Glacier in Switzerland, and these images show how far it has retreated from 2006 to 2015.
It retreated by 0.7 miles in that short space of time, and fears are that it’s only going to keep on retreating. Not only does the melting of our ice caps and glaciers mean rising sea levels, but also communities relying on the meltwater as their water supply are running out.
The size of Manhattan
This image shows a crack that first developed on a huge chunk of ice eventually break off and float away into the ocean. We know it’s a large piece of ice because the part that fell off is estimated to be around six times the size of Manhattan.
It’s not uncommon for large chunks of ice to fall off into the ocean every six years or so, but this one was twice the size of the previous one. The rate of ice being lost is growing as it begins to fall off in larger quantities.
Scientists use our glaciers to help learn about and understand the history of our climate. Some of these ice formations have been around for as long as a thousand years and are invaluable to researchers. Approximately 10% of the world’s land is covered in glacial ice, with 90% of that being found in Antarctica.
The other 10% is found in Greenland. The more glacial ice melts and falls into our oceans, the more it changes how the waters around the world behave. When the cold waters mix with the warm, they create currents. The increase in cold waters mixing with warm means the currents are slowing down around the planet.
A record amount
Greenland’s glacial ice is melting just like it is in Antarctica. Researchers believe the ice there has melted away in record time last year, losing enough to raise the global sea level.
It raised the level by one millimetre, but that was just in one year and doesn’t take into consideration the level raised by ice from Antarctica. These levels of rising tides are only sustainable for so long before our planet becomes washed out.
One of the glaciers in Greenland has retreated as much as 100m since 2004. This image shows the difference in levels of ice on the Qaleraliq glacier in Greenland. We can see that from 1993 to 2018, there has been a significant reduction in the amount of ice that covered the land and filled the waters.
Greenland is thought to be so large that if all the ice on it were to melt, it would raise the world’s sea levels by seven meters. That won’t happen overnight of course, but hypothetically, that’s how important Greenland is to the seas all over the world. Countries and communities that are close to or already lower than the sea level are at serious risk any time the sea levels rise.
We can see this spot, Muir glacier in Alaska, USA, has been completely transformed over the years. Back when we were taking photographs using giant cameras, it was easy to find this glacier in Alaska. People didn’t have to travel out to sea to see it because it reached all the way to the shoreline.
Now it appears as though there is no, or barely any, ice left in this location. Alaska’s landscape has changed an awful lot in the past 100 years, and climate change is right at the heart of that transformation.
Carroll Glacier, Alaska
Here is yet another example of just how much ice there was in Alaska many years ago. The picture on the left was taken in the 1890s and the one on the right in 2005. There were over 100 years between both pictures, and you could be forgiven for confusing them for two different places entirely.
This body of water used to be home to several large ice formations, but now it’s just another lake, albeit a picturesque one. There has been a lot of change in the past 100 years, and while society has largely changed for the good, the same can’t be said for the environment.
1930s and 2005
These pictures were taken at the same place in Alaska, Pedersen Glacier, though once again, they look like very different places. The image on the left looks as though there used to be some sort of lake here back in 1930, while today it has totally disappeared.
In its place is a green field, and in the background, we can see just how far the glacier has retreated from where it once was. Glaciers don’t stand still, but few people in 1930 could have predicted this spot of Alaska would look almost unrecognisable at the turn of the millennium.
Grinnell Glacier Overlook
This final Alaskan photo comparison shows what people at the top of the Grinnell Glacier Overlook go to see versus what they see now. Back in 1920, when this first picture was taken, we see almost everything below covered in a sheet of ice.
Today it there is much less ice than ever, with more of the rock exposed as a result. Alaskan glaciers are shrinking at an alarming rate, and a recent study showed that they are vanishing almost 100 times faster than experts first thought.
Harder to hunt
Like all of the climate change that is happening in the world, those most affected are the ones who live closest to the glaciers. In the case of the Antarctic that means polar bears, and there is a real concern that these fascinating animals are on their last legs. As the ice melts away from under the bear’s feet, they are finding it more and more difficult to find food sources.
They may be able to graze on the vegetation that begins to grow when the ice disappears, but really, polar bears need big meals to survive. With it becoming more difficult to hunt for polar bears, fewer can survive this harsh landscape than ever before.
Swimming until exhausted
As there are fewer icebergs for the polar bears to navigate across, it means they are having to swim for much longer periods. The ice is changing so quickly the bears are ending up getting stuck in a situation where they have to swim for their lives.
In 2009 researchers tracked one polar bear that didn’t stop swimming for nine days straight. She couldn’t find a piece of ice large enough to carry her weight, so she just had to keep on going, draining away her vital energy reserves to survive. Food and rest were not on the agenda until finally, the bear found some ice, after swimming for over 248 miles.
While humans are beginning to try and reverse the effects of climate change, is it too late to save the melting glaciers? Nasa funded a study that learned an iceberg in the Antarctic does have a finite lifecycle, and we may be unable to prevent it from completely flowing into the water.
Researchers were studying the Thwaites glacier because it’s understood to pose one of the biggest risks to rising sea levels. This glacier is already shedding ice at an increased rate, and soon the ice may be flowing so quickly there is no going back for the damage caused.
Rising sea level
Global warming is at the heart of the ice caps melting, and over the past 100 years, scientists believe the Earth’s temperature has increased by half a degree Celsius. It’s not an awful lot, but it appears to be doing quite a lot of damage.
The sea is thought to have risen by around 15 – 20 cm in the last century, largely caused by large icebergs breaking off and displacing the water. Just like when you get into the bath, but on a much larger scale. The frequency at which these icebergs keep breaking off is the main reason for the sea levels to continue to rise.
The sea levels are rising, and it’s largely down to the rate at which our glaciers are melting. Scientists fear that we are soon approaching the point of no return when it comes to reversing these effects. Seeing how much the world’s glaciers have changed in just 100 years shows how much we need to turn back the clock before it’s too late.