This semester, I’m taking a Geology 101 class for my General Education requirement. It’s about halfway through the course, and even though I’ve already taken a course like this in high school (fond memories of Earth Science), it’s a good refresher about the geological processes of Earth and how it affects us. Something that really stuck with me ever since the beginning was how the Earth was described as a planet with interacting systems. This statement implies that if something affects one system, it could directly affect the other systems that it interacts with, a bit like the cogs in a machine. If one of the parts of a system gets messed up, it will mess up the rest of the systems currently in place and cause serious damage.
Something that we went over in class today is ice sheets and glaciers, and the thing that I was to briefly discuss is what would happen if they ended up melting. Antartica and Greenland contain 90% of the world’s ice, and if they melted, it would raise the sea levels worldwide by 200 ft. It seems unlikely that these two giant lands of ice would melt, except for the fact that climate change is happening. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the summer melt on the ice sheets in Greenland has increased by 30% from 1976 to 2006, and it reached a new record in 2007. While there is some winter snow happening at the top of the mountains there, there has been less ice accumulation than there has been before, and there is increased glacier movement to the islands edges.
Another thing that I want to bring up in relation to glaciers is a map of North America that depicts the areas that would end up submerged if the present ice sheets melt. It depicted that most of the coastlines as we know it would disappear, and while that’s slight obvious, what really shook me was the fact that in this map, not only was Florida entirely submerged, but there were also places in the midwest by way of the Mississippi River that were completely submerged as well. Upon further research, there is a similar prediction for the rest of the world; present-day coastlines disappearing completely, with large-scale cities on major rivers risking becoming submerged as well. This would severely damage the economies of the areas, and a large-scale amount of people would lose their homes and livelihoods. Not only that, the submerging of the coastlines and other areas could severely affect the ecosystems that function in the conditions currently present, which, in the worst-case scenario, could ruin them entirely if they are unable to adapt to the rising water levels.
While at this present moment, it would take much higher temperatures and exacerbated climate change effects to reach a point where a full-scale ice sheets melting could possibly occur, it’s something to keep in mind when dealing with climate change. When our activities are tinkering with the geological systems in place, it holds the potential to become disastrous for us, as well as any of the other geological systems affected by climate change.