Ice on Earth

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My husband and I took turns driving the skidoo on top of the Vatnajokull ice cap.

Ice covers almost 15 million square kilometers of Earth’s land surface. That’s a lot of land! It helps keep Earth’s climate in balance (not too hot and not too cold). And it keeps Earth’s oceans at the levels we’ve come to expect (not too high and not too low). In other words, Earth’s ice is important to all living things.

So last summer, I decided to go check out some ice. I hopped on a plane to Iceland, then into a rental car, then into a 4-wheel drive jeep, then onto a skidoo to visit the Vatnajokull ice cap. It was AMAZING!

 

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This ice cap stays here year ’round. I took this photo in the middle of summer – still lots of ice.

 

Once you get up into the mountains, you see the ENORMOUS field of ice – very beautiful, very windy and cold, and VERY BRIGHT. Check out the video I took while on the top….  (Sorry about all the noise in the video. It’s very windy on an ice cap on top of a mountain!)

 That very white ice reflects the sun’s rays. The sun’s heat bounces back into the atmosphere, rather than being absorbed by the earth. That helps keep the planet from getting too warm. 

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This is my view of the ice cap on the top of the mountains, sitting on a skidoo.

 

 You can see this for yourself by shining a light toward hard-packed snow, and then shining a light toward a dark surface (such as black construction paper). See how the light is reflected off the snow, but not reflected off the darker surface?

When the classroom light is turned off, the students could see the light of the flashlight reflect off the snow and shine on the bottom of the trays.

When the classroom light is turned off, the students see the light of the flashlight reflect off the snow and shine on the bottom of the trays.

 

While in Iceland, I also flew over the Vatnajokull ice cap to get a bird’s-eye-view. 

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From the air, you begin to understand the enormous size of this sheet of ice.

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This is my view looking out the plane’s window. We’re looking at an ice cap.

 

 

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The views of the ice cap were stunning!

 

 

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Here’s a model of the Vatnajokull ice cap in Iceland to help you understand it. You can see it covers a large part of the southeast portion of the country.

The problem is that the ice is melting.  Scientists have evidence that Earth’s ice is melting. Global warming is the cause. Air pollution causes the world’s temperatures to rise. The warmer temperatures melt the ice.

Scientists measure the thickness of the ice by drilling down through it.

Here I saw scientists measuring the thickness of the ice by drilling down into the ice cap. The black you see in my photo is volcanic ash that has mixed with the ice.

The more Earth’s ice melts, the more heat our planet absorbs from the sun. (Apologies again for the wind noise.)

The less white ice we have to reflect the heat, the more Earth heats up. You can see where this is going, can’t you? Heating→ Melting → Heating→ Melting→Heating→ Melting→……

Chirpy and I are sitting in a glacial moraine. This area used to be covered by the glacier you see in the background.

Chirpy and I are sitting in a glacial moraine. This area used to be covered by the glacier you see in the background. It’s melting away, leaving grey rocks to absorb the sun’s heat. (No, I’m not having a bad hair day. It was very windy.)

We need Earth’s ice to keep our planet’s temperatures close to what they are now. All living things depend on Earth’s ice. 

 

Here's another area where the glacier used to be much thicker, and cover a much larger area. All the ground you see, including the ground I'm standing on, had been covered by the glacier for thousands of years.

Here’s another area where the glacier used to be much thicker, and cover a much larger area. All the ground you see, including the ground I’m standing on, had been covered by the glacier for thousands of years.

It’s important that we do what we can to reduce the amount of pollution we put in the air. When we reduce air pollution, we slow down global warming. That will slow down the melting of Earth’s ice. For ideas on ways you can help, click here.

At a recent science conference for teachers, a glaciologist showed us an ice core he collected from Antarctica. An engineer invented the drill that allowed the scientist to drill deep down to gather ice from thousands of years ago.

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A glaciologist from the United States Ice Drilling Program shows us an ice core from Antarctica.

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An engineer from the United States Ice Drilling Program shows us part of the drill that was used to capture the core of ice.

 

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Here’s a close-up picture of the piece of ice core all the way from Antarctica!

Can you see the bubbles in the ice core? What do you think caused these bubbles? What important information do they hold?

Click here for more information on ice cores.

112 thoughts on “Ice on Earth

  1. Global warming is bad for the earth. I have proof from, melting ice, extinct animals, forest fires and more. Global warming will ruin our futures. A way we can stop ruining our futures is by stop polluting. If we keep polluting then water will melt we will lose our water and we wiil die.

  2. Global Warming has affected our lives. The ice in my backyard melted in one day! That is proof that Global Warming is happening.The ice usually melts in 5-6 days!

    Thanks For Listening

  3. Wow, I knew the glaciers were melting, but I thought that it would be slower and more drawn out! The Glaciers Retreating and the Glaciers Melting video showed me just how fast glaciers are melting. In Glaciers Retreating, it showed me how a whole entire glacier that was huge, just melted. The map showed me how huge it was, and now, it’s all gone. It’s just replaced by dirt and rubbish now, all due to global warming. The Glaciers Melting video showed me how a glacier is melting right this second. I wish I could say that it’s melting one drip at a time, but sadly, it’s really not. About every square inch of it, dripping, dripping, dripping. The combined sounds of all their little landings make it sound like it’s raining. But no, it’s just melting, melting, melting.

  4. I had no idea about much of the stuff I read! I had no idea that ice covers almost 15 million square kilometers on Earth!The ice is important because it helps keep Earth’s climate in balance, and it keeps Earth’s oceans at a good level.Also,
    glaciers are cold, and very bright. White ice reflects the sun’s rays and the sun’s heat goes back into the atmosphere, instead of being absorbed by the ground. I have learned a lot from this blog post.

  5. I think that iceland is a very interesting place. Iceland and places like it are melting because of global warming. I think we should stop putting so much carbon dioxide in the air and preserve these beautiful places like iceland.

  6. I think this was very interesting because all the stuff melting is from global warming and it was very cool to go on an adventure. It was like i was there and now I learned a whole ton of new facts

  7. It was very cool seeing all she did in iceland. Our favorite was seeing how global warming is causing the glaciers to melt.

  8. It is really interesting how the white ice reflects the suns rays into space!I didn’t know the ice melting was that fast. It looks really cool the way the ice drips but its not good at the same time.

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