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From The Arctic To The Antarctic, Global Warming Is Moving Mountains!
By Ernest Stewart
"Future generations are not going to ask us what political party were you in. They are going to ask what did you do about it, when you knew the glaciers were melting." ~~~ Martin Sheen
While global warming has caused erratic weather patterns and is responsible for rising sea levels that threaten islands and coastal communities, a new study has revealed that climate change can also alter the shape of our planet, mountains included!
According to a five-year study just out in the journal Nature on Oct. 1, Michele Koppes, from the University of British Columbia, and colleagues, Bernard Hallet, Eric Rignot, Jeremie Mouginot, Julia Smith Wellner & Katherine Boldt compared the glaciers in Patagonia and in the Antarctic Peninsula.
They found that the glaciers moved faster and caused more erosion in warmer Patagonia compared with those in Antarctica as warmer temperature and the melting of the ice contribute to the lubrication of the glacier bed.
Koppes said that the glaciers in Patagonia erode up to a thousand times faster than in Antarctica, but as Antarctica warms up and moves to temperatures over 0 degrees Celsius, glaciers now all start to move faster.
The researchers said that they have already seen ice sheets that start to move faster and become more erosive, which creates deeper valleys and pours more sediments into the oceans. Koppes and his colleagues wrote in their study that:
"Glacial erosion rates are expected to increase with decreasing latitude, owing to the climatic control on basal temperature and the production of meltwater, which promotes glacial sliding, erosion and sediment transfer. Our findings imply that climate and the glacier thermal regime control erosion rates more than do extent of ice cover, ice flux or sliding speeds."The phenomenon causes faster moving glaciers to pour large amount of sediments into basins and on continental shelves, which can have unwanted impacts on the dams, fisheries, and accessibility of freshwater in mountain communities. Koppes continued:
"The polar continental margins in particular are hotspots of biodiversity. If you're pumping out that much more sediment into the water, you're changing the aquatic habitat."Alaska, and all across the Canadian Arctic, is starting to feel these effects. With a dramatic rise in the temperature of the region over the last five decades, the glaciers are at the edge of a big shift that'll get them flowing up to a hundred times faster than they were. While the melting of permafrost is already changing the land, turning forests into "wiggly forests" as the thawing causes trees to point in all directions, instead of up. Not to mention, wiping out roads, airports, and towns.
The study seems to settle a debate on when the glaciers have the most effect in shaping landscapes and creating relief. The findings suggest glaciers do the most damage near the end of each glaciation cycle than at the peak of ice cover. It's always something!
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(c) 2015 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for 13 years was the managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter.