How are Glaciers Formed?
Glaciers are formed on the coldest parts of the earth, either at ground level or on the mountains. They contain snow that has turned into ice after more snow has fallen over it and compressed it into hard ice.
For a glacier to maintain/increase its size, it is important that the amount of snow falling on it every year is greater than the amount of ice that has melted. If this trend is reversed then the glacier will start diminishing in size every year, and will soon be non-existent.
Glaciers Melting is a Normal Process
When there is a rise in temperature, the upper layers begin melting. It is this process that supplies fresh drinking water and irrigation for agriculture. Some nations depend on this source of water to produce electricity.
Glaciers Today are Melting Faster Than Normal
The process of melting is normal, but the rate at which they melt is increasing every year. This process is happening almost everywhere in the world. Global warming has increased average temperatures worldwide, making more glacier ice to melt compared to previous years. This not only reduces the size of the glacier, but is also a grave threat to the populations that depend on these glaciers for survival.
Communities that live along rivers fed by melting glaciers face the constant threat of being dislodged from their dwelling place due to possible flooding.
Many rivers are overflowing today, but very soon there will be no glacial melt to feed them, causing them to dry up and cause drought-like conditions.
Lakes formed by melting ice will increase in size. If this happens the impact could be very devastating for all those living in close vicinity. Entire villages could be destroyed including farming land, roads, road and rail bridges. Precious human life could be lost.
If the current trend continues, there will soon come a time when these glaciers will not exist, causing hydropower stations to shut down. Other sources for producing electricity will need to be put into place, causing pollution and helping the cause of global warming. All farmland that depends on melting glacial water will dry up, leading to a shortage of foodgrains.
Sea levels have already risen in recent times due to an increase in temperature caused by global warming. Water levels will rise further when more fresh water is added to it. Entire communities living in low-lying areas near the sea shores will be at threat. Fresh underground water in these areas will get polluted with salty sea water making it unfit for drinking or irrigation.
A rise in sea levels may kill or stunt the growth of many coral reefs. Coral reefs depend on photosynthesis from the sun for survival. When water levels increase, the amount of sunlight that reach them will reduce, making it difficult for corals to survive.
Many animals, birds, and fish that depend on freshwater from glaciers for survival will either reduce in numbers or get extinct over a period of time. This will happen at the site where glaciers melt directly into the sea.
DDT was a pesticide widely used and was banned worldwide many years ago. Most of this harmful chemical got airborne and settled in the cooler climates and were embedded and trapped into layers of glaciers. With glaciers melting at the rate they are today, these chemicals are being introduced into the water melting from glaciers, contaminating streams and rivers as they flow. This will have a negative effect on the health of all those who depend on this water for drinking and agriculture.
Many glaciers worldwide have already vanished. Ice reflects most of heat from the sun back into space, but when the land below gets exposed it absorbs most of the heat.
The Entire World is Facing the Impact
Most of the impacts are already being felt in many places across the globe. Places that never witnessed temperatures of 40+ degrees Celsius are witnessing it today; places that never suffered from drought are facing it today; places that never saw forest fires are seeing it today; places that never saw floods are witnessing it today. If the current trend of global warming continues, the situation will just keep getting worse -- we have all caused this horrible situation and only we can help reverse it.