Polar ice caps are regions of the planet high in latitude and covered in ice. We can also refer to this as sea ice. Sea ice is water that is frozen. This water is formed and dissolved in the ocean. It is much different from glaciers, icebergs, ice sheets and shelves which all start on land. Ice caps are often several inches thick and normally sturdy enough to last through weeks of summer. Normally, polar ice caps will increase during the winter months and reduce during the summer months. They rarely ever melt completely in fact, in some cases, the polar ice caps survive summer months and last all year. An estimated fifteen percent of the world’s oceans are polar ice caps in parts of the year.
It is true that polar ice caps only exist in the polar regions which are the regions between North or South Pole and also the region between the Arctic or Antarctic Circles, respectively. However, the polar ice caps are very important to the global climate. The surface of ice is very bright which means it helps to reflect sunlight back into space. When this happens, it ensures that the sun’s energy (solar energy) is not being absorbed into the waters and the polar ice caps melt at their normal rate. This means the waters stay cool and the equator is balanced.
When this doesn’t happen then things start to change. If the warmer temperatures melting more polar ice caps there are less bright surfaces to reflect the solar energy back into space which means the waters absorb more sunlight and they become warmer. Without immediate attention, this cycle will only get worse. Warmer temperatures means less reflecting which means warmer waters which can lead to a plethora of problems. Although the polar ice caps are some of the coldest places on the planet, this cycle of longer summers and shorter winters can not be sustained for long. Now, what does that hold for humans?
- Warmer waters means the ocean levels will rise which means there will be more frequent coastal storms like typhoons and hurricanes.
- The melting of the ice caps leads to warmer waters which then leads to the bleaching of corals. Corals are food for little fishes and homes for medium sized fishes. When corals start to die, the fish lose their home and their meals which means they might relocate or their numbers will fall drastically. This means less fish for humans to fish.
- We might be at risk of losing species. Animals like the polar bears who need polar ice caps to move around will suffer and this could lead to their extinction.
- Rising sea levels also leads to mass erosion which means more land is uninhabitable and stripped of the nutrients from the soil.
- This could in turn endanger our food supply especially for smaller communities who practice subsistence agriculture.
- Finally, it will simply get warmer because there are less ice caps to reflect sunlight which leads to hotter days as the waters get warmer.