What Happens If All The World’s Ice Melts?

Waterworld is one of my favorite movies… okay to be fair I haven’t seen it since I was like ten. But besides Kevin Costner with gills, what would that kind of a world look like? What happens when all the ice melts? Hi everyone Julia here for Dnews Lots of headlines warn about melting ice. It’s like a doomsday fanatics fantasy. I mean, did you see Day After Tomorrow? But calm down Hollywood, how bad will it be if the ice melts? Well, most of it’s not good. Weather might look a little different around the world. As more of the sun’s energy gets absorbed into the oceans, it could change the way air moves around in the atmosphere in the arctic and could even change the position of the jet stream. One study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters found that if the Arctic sea ice melts, England will get a little rainier. And a study published in the journal Nature suggests that the Northern jet stream will shift southward, bringing cold polar air, making winters colder and snowier in North America.

We could lose wildlife too. And as the ice melts at a rate of more than 86,000 square kilometers per year, wildlife is losing critical habitat. Lots of arctic species like whales, walrus and seals depend on the ice for protection and hunting. Some are already changing their feeding and migration patterns. Okay, I know what you really want to hear about. How will all this melting sink our cities? When talking about ice melting, it’s important to make a distinction. Ice caps, like the Arctic ice cap already sits on top of the water, so if even it melts, while still sucking, wouldn’t contribute to sea level rise. But if you’re worried about a future water world, you should be worried about ice sheets melting. Ice sheets sit on top of land and form when snow that falls during the winter doesn’t melt, and with enough time and enough snow, these layers stack up and form a big thick sheet. The two main ice sheets are the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets, which together contain more than 99 percent of the freshwater ice on Earth.

In the Antarctic, a large ice shelf that’s existed for 12,000 years is on the brink of collapse. Another study published in the journal Science found that over the past 20 years, Antarctica's floating ice shelves shrank 18%. And this melting is speeding up. New research from Princeton University shows that it’s melting faster than we thought. Researchers found that in Antarctica, ice melting increased by 6 billion tons per year each year during the 11-year period the researchers examined. Scientists believe that if these ice sheets melt, sea levels will rise, devastating coastal cities around the globe. According to a study published in the journal Climate Dynamics, if all the ice in the Greenland Ice Sheet melts, global sea level would rise by about 24 feet. If all of Antarctica melts, sea levels would rise by 200 feet! The entire Eastern Seaboard of the US would be underwater, and Florida would vanish. That’s a worst case, extreme scenario.

But we should still be concerned about this trend. These icy regions heat up faster than the rest of the world. To get a sense of how the Earth is warming, it’s important to keep an eye on the icy parts of the world. If the ice is melting…like a canary in a coalmine, it could signal a global warming trend. And speaking of, a recent study published in the journal Nature Climate Change found that it’s a positive feedback loop. As the ice melts, climate change will get worse. The ice acts as a giant reflector. Bouncing sunlight back into space. But as the ice melts, more of the sun’s energy will be absorbed rather than reflecting, heating up the Earth more, which in turn will melt more ice.. It’s a vicious cycle. And one country in particular is hoping that the world acts on this problem soon. Check out this video from our sister channel Seeker, on how the Maldives is dealing with rising sea levels.