Whether you call it climate change or global warming, it’s an issue some are passionate about (like estate planning lawyers), and also something that others fervently deny. The topic has a rather global consensus outside of the United States, where it’s a source of serious political disagreement.
However, scientific data is about hard numbers. The planet, as a whole, is warmer every year than previously recorded. Also, the ice pack in places like Antarctica, Greenland, and the Arctic Sea are diminishing every year. Yet, some might wonder just how are ice thickness and climate change related?
Many might assume that it’s just a matter of a warming planet melting the ice into liquid water. Anyone who orders a glass of ice water at a restaurant table and doesn’t drink it knows that the ice cubes melt over time. On a global scale, that’s not just a symptom of global warming or climate change, but also reinforces the cycle as a contributor.
While there are ups and downs, the extent of Arctic sea ice is decreasing over time. Even at the top of the world, there is a summer season that melts a lot of it, as anything inside the Arctic Circle has 24 hours a day of sunlight.
2017 was a bit of a bounce-back year, as the data from the middle of the summer showed roughly 1.79 million square miles of ice being the season’s minimum. That’s a lot of ice, and it is almost half a million more than the record low from 2012.
However, it’s also more than half a million square miles off from the median established in data recorded from 1981 until 2010. Also, making matters worse, the ice that is still left isn’t as thick as older ice. Current ice, compared to 1980, is multiple inches thinner.
Less ice surface area and thinner ice mean that melted water goes into the global oceans twice as much, raising sea levels nearly everywhere, although some regions do actually see their coastal levels go lower due to tectonics. This all fuels even more climate change though, because less ice means less sunlight and radiation reflected back into space, warming the Earth even more.
Eventually, there is expected to be no summer ice in the Arctic Sea, but this event will not mark the end of a rise in sea levels. With no reflection off of the ice and more water in the global volume, the oceans will absorb even more heat than ever, which expands the size of the seas. The increased temperatures will continue to reduce the thickness and size of ice sheets on land, such as snowcaps and glaciers, ramping up the cycle of diminishing ice thickness and climate change even more.
Even cities inland will not be spared the effects of rising sea levels. Hurricanes will be more frequent and powerful, as evidenced by the 2017 cycle. Also, cities that rely on melting snowpack for their water supply, as is common in Western states, may find themselves running quite dry.