Global Warming & Impacts on Glaciers

Topics: Water, Greenhouse gas, Earth Pages: 7 (2177 words) Published: February 23, 2010
Global Warming
The average global temperature has raised more than expected in the past few decades. Many prefer to use the milder term 'climate change' instead of the harsher 'global warming' to describe this change in average global temperature.

The main cause of global warming is thought to be the 'greenhouse effect' that is mainly caused by us humans. With an increase in temperature glaciers worldwide are melting faster than the time taken for new ice layers to form, sea water is getting hotter and expanding causing sea levels to rise, rivers overflow due to melting glaciers causing floods, forest fires are on the rise, and innumerable undesired effects are taking place due to global warming.

The Greenhouse Effect
The 'greenhouse effect' takes place when certain gases in the atmosphere of the earth trap heat. The term 'greenhouse' is used because light is allowed to reach the earth, but most of the heat generated is not allowed to escape, just as in a greenhouse. The more the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the more heat will be trapped within the earth's atmosphere, causing average earth temperatures to rise.

The greenhouse effect was first described by Joseph Fourier way back in 1824. The earth's temperature has increased by half a degree Celsius over the past century due to an increase in greenhouse gases. This slight increase may seem negligible, but the earth's ecosystem is very fragile, and even such small changes can prove disastrous.

Greenhouse gases are a natural part of the atmosphere and the main sources of these greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorocarbons. Increased greenhouse gases in the past century can be attributed to human activity such as burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas, reduced forest cover due to deforestation, increase in atmospheric methane gas due to mass rearing of cattle (in the process of digestion cattle and sheep produce and release methane into the atmosphere).

Glaciers are formed by snow that gets compressed and forms a thick ice mass over time. This ice begins melting when the temperature rises, and is again replaced by a fresh layer of snow. This process goes on and the glacier keeps getting bigger over time. The problem with any glacier begins when the ice melts at a faster rate than the snow that replaces it. The glacier will keep receding over time and will finally vanish.

Melting Glaciers
The melting of glaciers is a natural process. Many communities worldwide depend on the fresh water from these melting glaciers for their domestic use. Some countries depend on the melting water from glaciers for their production of electricity. Agriculture in many nations depends primarily on melting glacier water that flows in their rivers. All this melting water is constantly replaced by fresh snow that compresses into ice over time and will subsequently melt into water. This cycle goes on and on maintaining a perfect balance in the generation of fresh water and size of the glacier.

Glaciers Worldwide are Melting Fast
The last century has been a problem for glaciers across the globe. They are melting, but at an alarming rate. Fresh snow that replaces the melting ice is not able to maintain the size of almost any glacier worldwide. One of the main causes for this is thought to be 'global warming'. As the average global temperature keeps on increasing, ice from glaciers keep melting faster.

The effects of ice glaciers melting more than required can cause catastrophes of unimaginable proportions. If global warming is causing ice glaciers to melt faster, the reduced ice cover over earth in turn is causing temperatures to rise further. Ice glaciers deflect almost 80% of the heat from the sun and absorb about 20% of the heat. When an ice glacier vanishes and exposes the earth below, 80% of the heat from the sun is absorbed by the earth, and only about 20%...
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