Climate Change, Environmentalist, Nature, Science

Antarctica Ice Melt: What You See is Not What You Get

Antarctica ice
Ice sheets are three-dimensional, not two.
Image: Shutterstock

Antarctica is melting away much faster than the eye can see. What we can see is not what we get. Why? According to researchers, up to ninety percent of the melting ice is underwater. So while surface ice may appear to expand and contract somewhat normally, the truth is, the total volume of ice is going way down.

According to Nature World News, about 2,800 cubic kilometers of ice melts off the Antarctic ice sheet each year. Those huge chunks of ice that break off and float out on the open sea? Those icebergs only account for about ten percent of the loss.

Go anywhere else on Earth, and those numbers are reversed—90 percent of ice loss is due to calving (breaking off) and 10 percent is due to sub-shelf melting. Antarctica is the planet’s largest ice mass, and according to Jonathan Bamber, one of the researchers, “This knowledge is crucial for understanding how the ice sheets interact now, and in the future, to changes in climate.”

What does this mean for the average Joe? For starters, we can’t trust two-dimensional measurements. Too many reports and climate change arguments are completely two-dimensional; but in reality, the issue is exceedingly complex. Earth, and Mother Nature, are not things we understand completely, so assuming we know exactly what’s going to happen and when is folly.

The Daily Mail recently published a photo of the Arctic ice cap looking larger than ever, labeling the 2013 picture as “recovery” as compared to a 2012 photo. Labeled “contraction.” Indeed, the ice cap looks larger, but in reality, the ice is lower in volume and simply spread thin. So while the ice cap looks much larger, it’s not. That would be like saying a 4”x4” two-dimensional square is the same size as a 4”x4”x4” cube. It’s simply not true.

So, let’s all be a little smarter about the whole climate change issue. There’s something happening here, but it’s something more complex than can be explained in such simplistic terms. There are too many factors that go into the problem, and there is too much at stake for us to treat it as a simple black and white issue.

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