Did you guys know that groundwater, lake and river water, and water in the atmosphere only account for about a quarter of the world’s supply of fresh water? The vast majority of our fresh water is stored in polar ice and snow and in our mountain glaciers. Alright, you might think, so what? Well, we have a big problem now: these glaciers have existed for thousands of years, but global warming is making them melt faster and faster. In fact, they’ve melted by 30 percent in the past two decades! The latest research tells us that in the last 20 years alone, sea level has risen by more than 50 millimeters.
And that’s not all. As a result of climate change, ocean waters are also becoming warmer and warmer. Water expands when it warms up, so sea level rises. And this has a devastating impact on the Earth with catastrophic consequences for humans and us animals. Coral reefs are dying; entire landmasses are ending up underwater. Regions that once relied on glacial snowmelt for their water supply are now becoming barren, rocky deserts. These changes have already caused many species to lose their natural habitats, leaving them in danger of extinction. Melting glaciers could also shrink our fresh water reserves dramatically — and fresh water is absolutely essential to the future of life on Earth. Researchers have discovered that the snows of Kilimanjaro have melted by more than 80 percent since 1912. Many of the Himalayan glaciers could disappear entirely by 2035. Isn’t that terrifying?
Together with other research institutions, the US space agency NASA recently put together a map of Greenland’s glaciers. Here’s what they found:
- Many glaciers extend more than 200 meters below the ocean surface, and there are twice to four times as many of these deep glaciers as scientists had originally thought.
- The first 200 meters of the water in Greenland is from the Arctic, and this surface water is very cold.
- The water underneath this Arctic water is brought there by ocean currents coming out of the south, and this water is up to 4°C warmer. Glaciers melt much faster at these depths.
- If this ice disappears entirely, sea levels could rise by up to 7.42 meters — much more than climate scientists had thought up to now!
Many scientists are convinced that it’s our use of fossil fuels in particular that is driving climate change. That’s why getting our power from renewable sources is not just an “alternative” anymore. In this owl’s humble opinion, it’s the only way to stop climate change in time to save the world as we know it!