Drawing the Short Straw

If you look at a map of the world between Greenland and the Canadian and Alaskan mainland are tens of thousands of islands that form an archipelago, a cluster of islands mostly uninhabited except by seals, polar bears and wolves. Much of the land is covered with ice, permanent glaciers which as all glaciers do, move and flow although these glaciers tend to flow in many directions rather than in a single direction.  Although there have been many studies of Arctic sea ice cover until recently not much work had been done to understand what is happening to the glaciers on the Canadian Archipelago.

It seems that if scientists are right about their predictions of the warming that the glaciers will retreat quite significantly during this century, losing their volume by melting. The melt would increase seal levels by 3.5 centimetres which is no more than the height of a very short straw.

The scientists have found that snow fall has remained constant in the past ten years but air temperatures in this part of the world have increased, so the glaciers are melting. Checking with gravity measures from space confirms that in the past ten years the annual ice loss has bee at the rate of 70 billion tonnes, and is accelerating.

A three and a half centimetres rise in sea levels from this source by 2100 sounds manageable, although most of us alive today will not have to manage it. As I wrote, it is a very short straw, and humanity is drawing that short straw. Let us hope that there are not many more short straws that humanity will create and draw, and let us hope that humanity does not keeping loading these straws onto the back of a camel.

One Response

  1. Sometimes glaciers stop moving, when it gets too cold to do so, this happens as the summers get shorter and the climate colder, there is no thaw to lubricate them at ground level.

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