Antarctic Ice Shelf Could Collapse Under Global Warming

Dec 17, 2021

Earth’s rising temperatures have had a big impact around the world, but extra-juiceclimate change might be most felt where people don't live. The regions are at the planet's poles. They are called the Arctic and Antarctica. The poles are changing more quickly than climate scientists thought. That's according to new research.

“The very character of these places is changing,” said a scientist who works on the Arctic Report Card. That's a yearly report on the Arctic. She said, “We are seeing conditions unlike those ever seen before.”

Release of greenhouse gas is mostly caused by human activity such as the burning of fossil fuels. The gases have driven up the Earth’s temperature by more than 1.1 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times. This rise in temperature has destabilized one of Antarctica’s most dangerous glaciers and the ice shelf holding it. Scientists say it could break within three to five years. That really worries them a lot.

If the Thwaites Glacier collapsed, sea levels could rise several feet, scientists estimate. They say that would put millions of people who live on coasts in danger. Thwaites adds about 4% to annual global sea level rise, according to scientists. But that amount could rise to 25% if the shelf collapses, the scientists said.

Both arctic regions are mostly ice. Warming temperatures can change that environment a lot, scientists say. For example, images from the sky show how warmer conditions have led beavers to migrate into the Arctic tundra. They're building dams. Ships are sailing into areas once frozen, changing wildlife habitats and creating waste. 

Photo from NASA courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Based on the statistics in the article, the Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica contributes approximately ______ to annual sea level rise. (Common Core RI.5.1; RI.6.1)
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