By Mark Altgelt
Special to the Herald
(Note: This article has been corrected and expanded from the previous version.)
Antarctica, Greenland and Arctic ice is melting because more than 90 percent of the heat from greenhouse gas emissions has been absorbed into the oceans and warm currents are rapidly melting exposed ice. Warm currents are breaking up glaciers, thinning ice sheets and disintegrating ice shelves along with the glacial ice that follows them. A section of ice the size of Delaware recently broke away from the Larson Ice Shelf in the Antarctic Peninsula. Globally, 19,500 square miles of sea ice was lost per year between 1996 and 2013, more than double the previous 17 years.
In West Antarctica warm ocean currents, 4,000 feet below sea level, are carving canyons 30 miles long and 600 feet high at the base of three glaciers, causing large sections of floating ice shelves to break away. Those glaciers are in an unstoppable slow motion cascade into the Amundsen Sea.
The West Antarctica Ice Sheet is twice the size of Texas, two and half miles thick and dips more than 5,000 feet below sea level. When the glaciers are gone the massive ice sheet will be exposed to ocean currents that will slowly dislodge and break the ice sheet apart. That could take a thousand or several hundred years and would raise sea level 14 feet.
In the Antarctica Peninsula, next to South America, temperatures have risen nearly 5 degrees since 1950 and the winters have warmed 9 degrees reducing sea ice formation from seven to only four months a year.
Greenland’s glaciers are melting faster than predicted because recent mapping revealed many glaciers are in water deeper than 600 feet which is 6 to 8 degrees warmer than colder Arctic water above 600 feet. Melting of Greenland’s ice would raise sea level 24 feet.
Southeastern Greenland has a 27,000 square mile aquifer of water within its top layer of ice and snow that will eventually rupture. Here is more about that: nsidc.org/cryosphere/icelights/2014/02/can-liquid-water-persist-within-ice-sheet
Arctic sea ice has declined 30 percent over the past 30 years and minimum summer sea ice has shrunk 13.4 percent per decade.
The world is facing a catastrophic crisis caused by warming air and ocean temperatures. Republican and Democrat congressional representatives need to fulfill the will of the American people by enacting legislation that would stop heat trapping carbon dioxide emissions.
The Citizen’s Climate Lobby legislative proposal would accomplish that by establishing a gradually increasing fee on the carbon content of coal, oil, and natural gas. The revenue collected would be returned in equal monthly dividend payments to everyone 18 years and older, including a half dividend for one or two children per family. The fee would start at $15 per ton of carbon, adding about 15 cents to a gallon of gas, and would increase $10 per year.
The dividend payments would increase to compensate for the increasing cost of fossil fuels which would stimulate the economy and a market-driven transition to alternative energy because it would be less expensive and a better long-term investment.
The 62 Congressional representatives in the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus should introduce legislation based on the Citizen’s Climate Lobby, “Carbon Fee and Dividend,” proposal. With their votes in Congress and a majority in the Senate, national climate legislation would pass and go to President Trump for his signature or veto.
In the event of a Trump veto, the United States would miss the opportunity to lead the world in developing a sustainable global economy by building a more efficient and productive American economy with an energy infrastructure powered by clean renewable energy. A veto would also further divide the world in addressing climate change and the impending global crisis of rising sea level.
Warming ocean temperatures are melting polar ice which is disrupting the natural balance that regulates Earth’s climate but extreme cold polar atmospheric temperatures make it possible to take drastic action to maintain polar ice and the balance of Earth’s climate.
Arctic ice is receding but water could be pumped onto the winter ice that is melting so it will last throughout the year. Arctic winter temperatures average between -40 to +32 ° Fahrenheit so the pumped water would create a thick layer of solid ice that would be equivalent to old sea ice that has recently been replaced with thin, less solid ice. The science of this has been studied extensively at: www.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2016EF000410/full
Pumps operating continuously would pump water into 6 to 12 inch diameter horizontal perforated pipes 2 feet above the ice extending out 660 feet. The pipes could be heated to prevent freezing if necessary. The pumps would be spaced a quarter mile apart and powered with electricity through a grid generated by large wind turbines in frames that can be raised under periodically reinforced ice.
The Arctic ice cap regulates global climate because Arctic sea ice reflects the sun’s radiation into space and retains cold ocean temperatures while open water absorbs and retains the sun’s radiation accelerating ocean warming. Warming temperatures in the absence of Arctic ice allow the jet stream to drift south bringing cold Arctic air to Eastern United States and for warm air to penetrate into the Arctic. Warmer ocean temperatures could disrupt the system of global currents that regulate Earth’s temperature.
Restoring the Arctic ice cap would maintain Arctic climate and surrounding ocean temperatures until greenhouse gas emissions are stopped and global temperatures lower to a sustainable level.
Maintaining Arctic sea ice would give polar bears and seals life-sustaining habitat for hunting, resting and breeding.
The water in Greenland’s aquifer should be pumped to the surface to freeze before it bursts and ocean water could also be pumped onto Greenland and Antarctica to maintain strategic ice flows and ice sheets. The pumped water would counteract rising sea level in addition to preserving ice and its benefits.
Restoring Arctic and global ice my seem daunting but not compared to building a sea wall around Florida, moving New York City or colonizing Mars.
As a matter of national and international security the United States Army Corps of Engineers and military personnel should be dispatched and funds allocated to restore the Arctic ice cap. For more information, visit:
Mark Altgelt is affiliated with Citizen’s Climate Lobby.