Melting Glaciers, Rising Seas

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Recent measurements of ocean temperature near Tasiilaq, Greenland reached 40 degrees. It’s the highest temperature recorded in the area, raising concerns that water temperature could be melting the Greenland ice sheet from below. Scientists working in the area are gathering data about melting ice and its impact on rising sea levels. Justin Gillis, writing for the New York Times, reports that the developing scientific consensus points to sea levels rising three feet or more in the next 90 years.

More from the New York Times article, “Strictly speaking, scientists have not proved that human-induced global warming is the cause of the changes. They are mindful that the climate in the Arctic undergoes big natural variations. In the 1920s and ’30s, for instance, a warm spell caused many glaciers to retreat.”

However, data continues to point to the human impact on the earth’s environment. Melting ice, rising land and sea temperatures, an increase in extreme weather events, dying coral reefs, and changes in plant cycles indicate a warming trend on a global scale. As the Greenland ice sheet releases more icebergs into the ocean, rising sea levels are expected to threaten coastal communities around the world.

Gillis writes, “In the United States, parts of the East Coast and Gulf Coast would be hit hard. In New York, coastal flooding could become routine, with large parts of Queens and Brooklyn especially vulnerable. About 15 percent of the urbanized land in the Miami region could be inundated. The ocean could encroach more than a mile inland in parts of North Carolina. Abroad, some of the world’s great cities — London, Cairo, Bangkok, Venice and Shanghai among them — would be critically endangered by a three-foot rise in the sea.”

In the next forty years, the world’s population will likely reach nine billion. The demand for natural resources will increase in step with the rise in population. Everything from food production, manufacturing, heating and cooling needs, and transportation contributes to carbon dioxide emissions. NASA’s measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide go back 650,000 years and indicate a record increase beginning in the 1950s at the start of the Industrial Revolution.

Scientists continue to work to project climate change for the next century, pushing scientifically advanced countries to develop strategies for studying land ice, rising sea levels, and global climate. As the research continues, it seems that a global focus on environment will require international cooperation to address the needs of human communities across the planet.

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