Far-reaching environmental impacts of climate change and ice melt

Scientists are discovering the surprising and far-reaching effects of massive ice caps melting under global warming. The disappearance of ice in the Arctic Ocean, for example, causes less sunlight to reflect off the surface of the ice, so sunlight warms the ocean more strongly. The warmer ocean warms the air, changing weather patterns and affecting the jet stream flowing over North America. In autumn, this creates a hot and dry climate almost 5,000 km away northwest of the USA, significantly increasing the risk of forest fires.

Around 2015, the North Atlantic Right Whales began to disappear from the North Atlantic Ocean, where they spent the summer foraging. Some individuals swam hundreds of kilometres north in search of food. According to the researchers, as the Greenland ice cap melts, fresh water pours into the Atlantic Ocean, where it meets one of the ocean currents, causing it to slow down. In this way, the water in the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 97% of the global ocean, and the leading food of the North Atlantic Right Whales, plankton intolerant of higher temperatures, is moving into cooler waters.

Why are more than 15 million people at risk from sudden floods from glacial lakes worldwide? Climate change is causing mountain glaciers to melt rapidly, leaving behind unstable lakes. The water in them is held back only by natural dams – stones and ice remnants. One such critically endangered lake is Nepal’s Tsho Rolpa.

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