Melting Glaciers

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Global Warming is a major concern today. The deterrents are right there in front of us to see and most definitely, it is not a pleasant sight. The effects of global warming, caused by increasing level of green house gases, are aplenty  like unexpected floods, changes in temperatures from being too hot to too cold, and many more natural disasters, one of the most important and scariest of all being the melting of Glaciers.

Before we go into details as to how we will be affected if the world’s glaciers melt, let us try to understand exactly what a Glacier is.  Glaciers are formed by fallen ice that gets solidified into ice over a period of time.  New layers of snow keep adding up to the already formed ice compressing it further.  This makes it thicker and heavier as it is a continuous process.  As the weight of the glacier keeps increasing, it helps the entire block of ice to move very slowly, a few meters over a period of days. Because they move, glaciers are also called rivers of ice, as like rivers flow, so do glaciers.  One important aspect to remember is not to venture out onto a glacier with fresh slow fall, as the snow will still be lose causing fissures and crevasses.

But is the melting of a glacier normal?  Climatologists say that a little melting of glaciers is perfectly normal, even contributing to the fresh water supply to living beings, problems arise when the amount of snowfall is much lesser than the amount of melting snow, like the scenario in the present world.  In fact glaciers have been melting from 1850, and then between the years 1959-80, a little global cooling took place which helped in preserving most of the glaciers.  There has already been a consistent decrease of glaciers in Indonesia, Africa, even the Alps since the beginning of this century due to global warming.

So what does the loss of glaciers mean to life as we know it? The loss of glaciers not only means a rise in the sea levels, thus affecting all those living in coastal regions, it also affects the basic availability of fresh water for animals, plants, farming. Global warming has caused most of the glaciers to melt.  As temperatures are gradually rising, even at sea levels, there is a huge dearth for fresh water. As we all know, though the earth is made up of mostly water, none of it is unfortunately, drinkable.  There is already a huge water shortage problem around places which depend on glacier water, as there is just not enough coming from that end, which in turn leads to loss of vegetation, which needs a lot of water, animal life, especially fish and also coral reefs. The Great Barrier Reef in Australia, one of the most popular reefs in the world, is already fighting hard to survive.

It is a very scary scenario to even imagine a day without the great and mighty Himalayas guarding this nation, or to think the great Andes mountains will disappear, or even the Alps and the Rocky Mountains. The retreat of glaciers in places like Greenland, the Arctic or the Antarctic could cause damages beyond belief, causing worldwide damage.

The effect of melting glaciers is a huge concern for each of us.  There is so much that we as individuals can do to save our world, and it always begins with the little things. The major change to be brought about is reducing global warming. Our leaders met up at Copenhagen but each was so busy trying to put the blame on the other that the whole purpose of that meet was lost. IPCC has said that the world’s glaciers will be lost by 2035, and though it retracted its statement later, what if that is the truth? That is such a short time left to watch our planet go by. There will be unprecedented effects, from cyclones, hurricanes, tropical storms that will lead to human loss.  We should plant trees, reduce the use of natural resources, forestation, or even spreading awareness about the damaged state we are in.  They say that the earth will end in 2012, if not then, we will end it all for ourselves soon enough.

Aparna G

[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/emmajg/3034752116/]

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