Q:

Can we stop the polar ice caps from melting?

A:

Quick Answer

Whether or not humankind can keep the polar ice caps from melting is a subject of great debate in which both side cite scientific studies that support their positions. The bulk of scientific and environmental organizations, however, believe that humans can slow or even halt the melting of polar ice caps and global warming by reducing the use of fossil fuels and other man-made chemicals.

Know More
Can we stop the polar ice caps from melting?
Credit: Matthew Schoenfelder Lonely Planet Images Getty Images

Full Answer

Melting polar ice caps are considered by some to be a product of global warming. According to NASA.gov, global warming is caused by the greenhouse effect, which results from Earth's atmosphere trapping the heat that radiates from the ground. This is thought to cause the planet's temperature to rise, changing climates around the globe.

Water vapor, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane and chlorofluorocarbons are gases produced by both natural and man-made processes that contribute to the greenhouse effect. Humans increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere through deforestation, land use changes and burning fossil fuels; they also add to the amount of naturally occurring methane through agriculture and the decomposition of waste in landfills. Nitrous oxide is a byproduct of agriculture, fossil fuel combustion, nitric acid production and biomass burning. All chlorofluorocarbons are produced by industry.

Critics contend that the increase in global temperatures is a purely natural phenomenon and that the planet has undergone periods of dramatic heating and cooling throughout its existence. They point to contracting and recovering ice caps as proof. Many of these scientist are or were formerly employed by organizations that endorse the theory of man-made global warming.

Learn more in Earth Science

Related Questions

  • Q:

    When did the Ice Age start and end?

    A:

    The last Ice Age, known as the Pleistocene Epoch, began almost 1.8 million years ago and lasted until approximately 11,700 years ago. During this time, massive glaciers covered most of the surface of the Earth. There have been four known Ice Ages on Earth in the 4.6 billion years that the planet has existed. It is very possible that there were many more that occurred that are undocumented from before the advent of mankind, about 2.3 million years ago.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    Does the North Pole have land under its ice?

    A:

    There is no land under the ice at the North Pole because the North Pole is located in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. The ocean is mostly covered by ice sheets about 6 to 10 feet thick, which expand during autumn and winter and shrink during summer.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    Does the shape of ice affect the speed at which it melts?

    A:

    The rate of change in ice melting is a result of its surface area, which is related to its shape. Because it represents a point of contact with another substance at a higher temperature, differences in surface area affect the melting rate of ice proportionately. A thin sheet of ice, which has a greater degree of surface area, will melt faster than a cube of ice that is of a similar volume.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    How do ice ages occur?

    A:

    Ice ages occur due to continental movement and changes in ocean and atmospheric patterns. When the plates beneath the continents shift, warm ocean water is obstructed and can no longer reach the poles. This causes glaciers to grow.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:

Explore