Evidence / 447 Views

Temperatures Rise – What Happens Next Is Up To Us

Ella Gilbert, University of Reading

Images of colossal chunks of ice plunging into the sea accompany almost every news story about climate change. It can often make the problem seem remote, as if the effects of rising global temperatures are playing out elsewhere. But the break-up of the world’s vast reservoirs of frozen water – and, in particular, Antarctic ice shelves – will have consequences for all of us.

Before we can appreciate how, we need to understand what’s driving this process.

Ice shelves are gigantic floating platforms of ice that form where continental ice meets the sea. They’re found in Greenland, northern Canada and the Russian Arctic, but the largest loom around the edges of Antarctica. They are fed by frozen rivers of ice called glaciers, which flow down from the steep Antarctic ice sheet.

Ice shelves act as a barrier to glaciers, so when they disappear, it’s like pulling the plug in a sink, allowing glaciers to flow freely into the ocean, where they contribute to sea level rise.

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