Melting Icebergs Don’t Cause the Sea Level to Rise

May 26, 2017 at 12:00 pm 1 comment

Even among people who understand that the sea level is rising due to climate change, there are still some misconceptions floating around. It makes sense that as the temperature rises, floating sea ice would begin to melt, adding extra water and raising the sea level. In reality, that’s not quite how it works and sea ice is the least of our worries.

glacier

Sea ice is melting and we’re losing icebergs that have existed for millions of years. This doesn’t cause the sea level to rise, however, because the volume of this floating ice has already been accounted for. The ice was already displacing the water and as it melts, it simply adds the same volume in a liquid form. Put a bunch of ice cubes in a full glass of water and the glass won’t overfill from the ice melting.

If floating sea ice isn’t to blame for our rising sea level, what’s the cause? As water warms up, it expands—an oddity specific to water molecules due to weak chemical bonds that can be easily broken with a bit of energy. Until water reaches its boiling point and beings to evaporate, it’ll always expand. The only other time water expands is right as it freezes and this effect only lasts during a very specific temperature range (water really is a strange molecule).

Seawater expansion isn’t the only reason for rising sea levels; land ice is also to blame. Although floating glaciers don’t cause much of a problem when they begin melting, land ice is a different story. Terrestrial glaciers and ice sheets, generally found in mountains and valleys, really do add extra water to the sea as they melt. This is a huge problem because our glaciers are currently melting very quickly. Glacier National Park in Montana contained approximately 150 glaciers. Modern estimates based on a large number of studies show that by 2030, the park might not have any glaciers left. Currently, less than 30 glaciers remain in the park. Although a dramatic example, this melting isn’t limited to any specific part of the planet. Terrestrial ice is melting everywhere and this adds a ton of water to our oceans—leading to both a rising sea level and changes in water chemistry that can negatively affect marine life.

As greenhouse gases continue to trap heat, warming our planet’s climate, seawater expands and the sea level rises. The melting of floating icebergs doesn’t matter much in this scenario but terrestrial ice sheets and glaciers sure do. These sheets of land ice add extra water to our ocean, leading to sea level rise and changes in water chemistry.

Broken Secrets | Facebook | Twitter | Email | Kindle

Image: TomaB (cc)

Sources: umaine.edu, nasa.gov, noaa.gov, nationalgeographic.com, nasa.gov

 

Entry filed under: Be Green. Tags: , , , .

Tomatoes Lose Flavor in the Fridge

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Newton Snookers  |  May 26, 2017 at 6:23 pm

    Your article is confusing to the lay person. You are correct that floating sea ice will yield no net change in the sea level. However, the vast majority of water ice on earth is not on the sea and by melting it off of land, that WILL generate a dramatic net increase in sea level. If the Antarctic ice melts from that continent, the sea level increase will be unbelievable.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


Follow Broken Secrets

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 5,745 other followers

Big Awards


Best Personal Blog/Website (People's Voice)


W3 Award - Copy Writing

Read Secrets on Your Kindle

Categories

Play Hashi Link

Featured by…

• Yahoo
• Business Insider
• NPR
• BBC
• Smithsonian Magazine
• USA Today
• AskMen (and many more...)

Contact Info


%d bloggers like this: