Many people have the same question: why is Antarctic ice melting rapidly? The short answer is that this phenomenon is entirely due to global climate change. The exact reasons behind the melting of the ice of Antarctica are a bit more complicated than that. However, all of these reasons connect to global climate change in some way.
Global climate change is complicated. Some areas are starting to experience colder winters and hotter summers simultaneously. Global climate change is making some areas wetter and some areas drier. Some areas are also getting generally warmer than others.
Most people are familiar with the common description of global climate change, which is ‘global warming.’ This is not completely accurate, but it is a useful shorthand when it comes to describing the greenhouse effect, which is what is ultimately causing global climate change. The concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has increased, and this means that more heat becomes part of the Earth’s system.
This means that more water and moisture will evaporate, leading to more water vapor in the atmosphere, and more rain and snow in some areas. Other areas will get drier, thanks to the loss of moisture in the soil. Most people have heard that global temperatures have increased by about one degree or so, and this is the case. This doesn’t sound like a lot, but that is already enough to cause tremendous changes to various Earth systems. It’s important to note once again that the effects will be felt differently in different areas.
Most people are surprised by the fact that Antarctic ice is melting as rapidly as it is, given that the effects of global climate change are much milder in many other areas. It should be noted that the effects of global climate change are going to be much more severe at the poles for a number of reasons. This is a phenomenon known as polar amplification.
Polar amplification, in the case of the Earth system, is due to a phenomenon called ice–albedo feedback. Basically, when it starts getting warmer, the ice starts to melt. Normally, the ice should reflect some of the light and heat away, due to its high albedo. However, as the ice disappears, more heat gets absorbed. Since more heat gets absorbed, more ice melts. This means that there will be less ice to reflect away the heat, and this process will continue to get worse.
Polar amplification happens even on planets without polar ice, so it’s partly due to poleward heat transport and some variations in the local net radiation balance. Antarctic ice is melting very quickly because the poles are uniquely vulnerable, which is one of the reasons why they provide such strong evidence of climate change.
The ice of the Antarctic is land-based, so it’s on top of a large land mass. Still, it’s being affected by the fact that its surrounding Southern Ocean is getting warmer. Climate change is also leading to stronger storms, which could cause the melting to accelerate even further. Help make the Earth greener, by simply planting a flower bed at home.