What would happen if the polar caps melted? It’s worse than you think

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When we talk about the polar ice caps, we are talking about the massive layers of ice and snow that cover Antarctica, Greenland, and parts of Canada and Russia.

It is normal for arctic ice to melt and break away from glaciers in a process called calving, but the rate at which both occur exceeds the production of new snow and ice, Mathieu Morlighem, a glaciologist and associate professor of earth system science at UC Irvine, recounts Reverse. The first thing to do, however, is to stop panicking, as it will take over a century for the polar caps to melt completely. But what if we speed things up a bit?

Reverse spoke to Morlighem about how melting ice caps could hypothetically transform Earth by 2121. His response was edited and condensed:

Sailing among the icebergs of Jökulsárlón, a large glacial lake in the southern part of Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland.Marco Brivio / Stockbyte Unreleased / Getty Images

“It won’t happen, even over 100 years – it will take thousands and thousands of years, but it’s still a good question to ask because the world won’t end in 2121. We believe if Greenland melts Today the sea level would rise by 7.4 meters overall and Antarctica is an additional 58 meters, so that makes a total of 65.4 meters, or 215 feet. And it will not be evenly distributed throughout the world. world because of gravitational pull Sea levels will drop around Greenland and Antarctica, but rise everywhere else.

“All nations are going disappear. “

The number of people who would be affected by this is roughly 40% of the world’s population, as they are within 250 feet of high tide. Usually we say it costs $ 1,000 billion per meter of sea level, so about $ 65 trillion. Entire nations will disappear. The Pacific Islands, they’re gone. Who will take care of these people? They need to have a place to live and they have a culture.

One important thing that will happen is the contamination of groundwater. If the sea level rises, there will be an infiltration of salt water into the underground water reserves further inland. So even if you think you are safe because you are over 250 feet away, your well may now be contaminated and you cannot irrigate because it is salt water.

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Another thing that is already happening is that the thermohaline circulation can be affected. Also called the great conveyor belt, it shifts heat from the equator to higher latitudes. We can already see this circulation slowing down because we are dumping too much fresh water in the Arctic. So if that happens, there would be no more Gulf Stream. Europe will be as cold as Montreal. Temperatures in Europe would drop and there would be a kind of mini ice age.

“There are also a lot of toxic chemicals in the ice caps and in some of our mountain glaciers.

There are also a lot of toxic chemicals in the ice caps and in some of our mountain glaciers – in the Himalayas, for example. We know there are chemicals like DDT, and we are really concerned that those chemicals are going into rivers and drinking water. During the Cold War, there was a military base in northern Greenland called Camp Century. They dumped a lot of harmful chemicals and radioactive material in that area and they left the base – it’s under the ice, but as the ice melts. It’s going to be exposed, and we don’t know what’s going to happen.

Another interesting effect is that if you melt the ice, it will affect the rotation of the Earth. It can actually change the length of a day. Ice caps are close to the Earth’s axis of rotation – they are around the poles. You melt this ice, and this water will go towards the Earth, therefore further from the axis of rotation. The Earth will therefore rotate more slowly. It’s hard to quantify, but probably 10, 20 seconds longer for a day.

Reverse asked a series of experts on five different scenarios for our planet by 2121. Read the rest: supervolcano explodes, asteroid impact, pandemic wipes out 10 percent of humanity, and humans stop warming climate.

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