Polar Ice Cap Melting

Effects of the more Rapid Melting of the Polar Caps
There are spots in Greenland and Antarctica which are actually gaining ice because of increases in annual snowfall. But, on average, they are melting faster. For a while change will come slowly, but later this century it will speed up. The consequences of this melting include the release of methane (a warming gas) trapped in the tundra, and a slowing of the Atlantic Conveyor, which would cool Europe and warm tropical waters.

Greenland Glaciers Speed Up:  Satellite measurments taken by NASA in 1996, 2000 and 2005 show that southern Greenland glaciers are moving into the sea almost twice as fast as 10 years ago. Greenland contains enough ice to raise sea level by 20 feet. But this will not not happen in the next 100 years. 2-17-06

The land is disappearing under residents of the Arctic. In Russian towns built on permafrost, buildings are warping, twisting, crumbling as the land melts xlnk.gif below them. The shore line is moving 15-18 feet closer to the oil storage tanks each open water season. The longer season brings more oil and gas drilling to endanger the world's largest stocks of cod and herring. 

The melting ice sends cold fresh water into the north Atlantic. This could lead to a reduction in the flow of the Gulf Steam.


Eight countries have Arctic territory and can claim a part of the new sea.

Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Russia, the United States (Alaska) have arctic coast lines. Iceland, Sweden and Finland have arctic territory but no coast line there. From well outside the Arctic, China and India are interested in helping develop the oil and gas resources exposed by the shrinking ice. 

At stake are not only gas and oil, but shipping lanes - the fabled Northwest Passage - and fishing rights and national security.  

The rules aren't clear. The Law of the Sea, Article 76 describes how ownership of the Arctic might be settled. The United States has not ratified the Law of the Sea because some senators claim it would infringe on American sovereignty. Proponants of the treaty, including the Pentagon, point out the obvious -- if you don't sign, you can't vote.
Who owns the Arctic.pdf xlnk.gif

Canada and Denmark xlnk.gif are disputing the ownership of a 1.3 square kilometer island revealed by the melting Arctic ice.

Scientists Predict Melting of Ice Cap at Pole  Alarmed by an accelerating loss of ice in the Arctic Ocean, scientists are striving to understand why the speedupxlnk.gif is happening and what it means for humankind. If present trends continue, the sea surrounding the North Pole will be completely free of ice in the summertime within the lifetime of a child born today.

Some researchers fear that the polar region already may have passed a "tipping point" from which it can't recover in the foreseeable future. Others think the Arctic ice pack is nearing a point of no return but hasn't reached it yet.