Home > Antarctica, Climate Change > Manhattan-sized Glaciers Break off at Both Ends of the Globe

Manhattan-sized Glaciers Break off at Both Ends of the Globe

February 6, 2012


Following the recent report by MSNBC of a glacier break up in Greenland estimated at twice the size of Manhattan, the National Geographic now reported that another glacier in Antarctica, this time just about the size of Manhattan (is the size of Manhattan the rule of thumb when calculating glacier sizes?) is about to break off as well.

Experts relate that they are worried about the effects this may have on the rising sea level, but what about the collective effects ? Both sites are deemed responsible for possible changes to the ocean currents.

Take the North Atlantic for example, the gulf stream takes warm water from the tropics upstream towards the north, contributing to the warm climate in Europe. As the current hits Greenland it reaches fresh water which causes the salty water to sink and sends warm water back down towards the south.

The problem with glaciers breaking off and eventually melting is that it is reducing the salty warm water moving south, thus slowing down the entire flow. This flow reduction may cause temperature drops all over Europe.

Now imagine having the same situation in the southern hemisphere as Antarctica is also producing a high rate of fresh water from its melting glaciers. The result is a slowdown of the ocean circulation at both ends of the globe.

If the circulation were to stop altogether we may be headed for the next ice age. This has happened many times before. Regardless of what is causing these glaciers to melt, however, be it global warming or the effects of a natural cycle, the fact remains that these glaciers are melting at an alarming rate.

There are too many different views of too many different scientists to try to summarise what effects this may have on our planet. The extreme views say that they are contributing to rising sea levels and cooling temperatures, whereas on the side of the spectrum they tell us not to worry, that this is a normal cycle which happens every so often.

So my question to the scientists is this, how many Manhattan sized glaciers need to break off before we are given a true picture of what is really going on here?

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