Where Will All the Water Go?
This photo shows a huge crack in Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier. The glacier is thinning and weakening. A big chunk of the glacier is on its way to becoming a new iceberg that will eventually melt in the ocean.
Why It Matters
- Glaciers all over Earth are melting. The polar ice caps are melting as well. In fact, they are melting at the alarming rate of 9 percent per decade. Since the 1960s, the thickness of Arctic ice has decreased by 40 percent.
- Why is all this melting going on? Ice all over Earth is gaining thermal energy and changing from the solid to liquid state. The increased thermal energy is due to global warming.
- Where will all that liquid water go? It will go into the ocean and raise sea levels. You can use the interactive map at the following URL to see how sea levels are changing around the world: http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/. Click on some of the arrows on the map and then on the linear trend. On each graph, look for the linear mean sea level trend.
What Do You Think?
Learn more about melting ice and rising sea levels at the links below. Then answer the questions that follow.
- Multiple climate models indicate that sea ice will increasingly retreat as Earth warms. What do the models predict for the Arctic? What will it be like by 2040 if the models are correct?
- Global warming causes sea levels to rise for two reasons. Explain what the two reasons are.
- How much has global sea level risen in the past century? How much is it likely to rise by 2100, based on climate models?
- On the sea level map above, look at the linear trends in sea level for Grand Isle, Louisiana, and Hilo, Hawaii. Describe in words what the mean line graphs show for these two locations.
- What are some of the likely effects of rising sea levels?
- What do you think? How do you predict sea levels will change in the future? How do you think this will affect people who live on coasts?