Shrinking ice sheets

The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are shrinking. Data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show Greenland lost an average of 286 billion tons of ice per year between 1993 and 2016

Drastic changes are occurring at the poles of our planet. As the air and sea warm, the ice that covers vast areas is melting. Over recent years, this has been accelerating, and the polar ice caps are now melting six times faster than thirty years ago.

Large iceberg floating in the sea
Warming oceans and global temperatures are contributing to shrinking ice sheets.

What are the impacts?

As the ice melts, the water has to go somewhere. The huge loss of ice we're seeing is causing sea levels to rise. Rising sea levels can lead to flooding of coastal areas. Current estimates suggest that 400 million people may be at risk of yearly flooding. Soon coastal towns and cities may be uninhabitable due to the risk of flooding and the people that live there will have to be displaced elsewhere.

The increase in freshwater to the oceans caused by melting ice sheets is also leading to more extreme weather. The vast amounts of meltwater change the circulation of ocean currents which can bring about devastating heat waves, hurricanes, and tornadoes. The instability caused by this will cause challenges to growing the crops we need to survive, increasing prices for some, while others will struggle to have enough to eat.

It won't just be us affected by the changes and extreme weather. Animals like walruses are losing their homes while wolves and foxes that live close to the edge of the sea ice are having to move further and further from land, isolating them.

The loss of ice also means algae have a smaller area to grow. This disrupts the whole food chain as algae are right at the bottom of the chain, causing knock-on effects for the fish and mammals higher up.