The scientific community is debating whether or not global warming is happening at a faster rate or that the ice mass is in a steady state balance. The other
enormous question is what to do about global warming and its potential for a downside. This article will explore the dynamics of polar ice melts, current trends and future strategies to adjust to global warming and the delicate ecological balance which exists in the arctic regions.
Stronger ocean currents are thought to lie under the West Antarctica Ice Shelves because of the melting of huge amounts of polar ice. Significant and growing cavities formed beneath the ice shelf itself. These cavities appear to allow greater pockets of warm air and the surrounding water to melt more quickly.
The Pine Island Glacier Ice Shelf is incrementally sliding into the sea at about 3 miles per year. The phenomena involves sea water which appears to boil right to the surface. The key research question concerns present and future implications for the Pine Island Glacier Ice Shelf melting.
The implications for the melting of the Pine Island Glacier Ice Shelf include damage to the industrial infrastructure in the area, as well as the delicate ecology of aquatic life and support systems. In addition, the case for the electric cars strengthens once a greater risk for drilling arctic oil can be established. The case for placing caps on carbon emissions also strengthens once a major unexpected disaster happens.
Extensive oil drilling in the arctic regions may have an impact on the delicate ecological balance of aquatic life unless precautions are taken to preserve the nutrient rich water and the transition zone between deep water and mixed surface layers. Water which is rich in nutrients rises from deeper levels to replace the surface water that has dissipated. In addition, arctic drilling may impact tipping points that could unleash huge pockets of ice and water on an
In addition, the safeguarding of the land portion of the arctic regions requires that companies get permits to protect the land and restore it to an ecological balance. Generally, the protections should inhibit oil spills, prevent ground water contamination, have minimal impact on ecological tipping points and require the proper disposal or reuse of wastes.
The energy industry has put forward the argument that cold water temperatures and seasonal arctic ice
could help contain oil spills and make the cleanup easier and less risky due to the natural containment barrier of the ice itself. The industry needs to do more than just offer an argument for containment. It needs to keep production quotas at a reasonable rate instead of running equipment at over 100% capacity.
More frequent testing of the underwater blowout preventers is another popular option which has come out of the industrial learning curve from the BP oil spill. In addition, remote controlled submarines, robotic divers and human divers may be employed to repair the underwater infrastructure if the blowout preventers fail to operate as intended. Any piece of mechanical equipment carries with it a mean time between failures for critical parts.
Routine maintenance can be performed on an anticipatory basis to replace equipment components in advance of the predicted failure. In the worst case scenario, the company can apply dispersant underwater at the source of an oil spill. Application of dispersants underwater will require advanced government permits before the commencement of any projects. Methane is yet another complication for oil drillers.
Methane hydrate fields should be well - mapped by oil companies and the Minerals Management Service, the industry regulator. In addition, the Minerals Management Service must conduct its own independent studies of methane hydrate fields before any government entity awards drilling permits.
Considerable industrial precautions are necessary because the underwater nutrients are responsible for supporting the large aquatic animal kingdom and ecosystems in these Arctic areas. The effectiveness of upwelling and its ability to serve as an ecosystem to support valuable sea life depends upon the comparative depth of the thermocline which lies between the deep water layer and the mixed surface layer.
The mixed layer hovers adjacent to the surface area where the temperature is roughly comparable to the surface water. In the thermocline area, the temperature is demonstrably lower. It varies from the mixed layer temperature to the freezing deep water temperature. The thermocline represents an important transition zone between the deep water layer and the mixed layer.
The nutrients are responsible for supporting the large aquatic animal kingdom and biological ecosystems in these areas. The effectiveness of upwelling is in its ability to serve as an ecosystem to support sea life by supplying vital nutrients. This process depends in part upon the depth of the thermocline which lies between the deep water layer and the mixed surface layer.
Steady state mass balance appears to be occurring on the eastern Antarctic coasts. That is ; ice is not being lost from the massive shelves there. Previously, scientists believed that large amounts of ice were melting quickly; thereby leading to a rise in sea levels.
A lengthy study of Greenland's huge glaciers suggests that the melting was at comparatively slower rates than previously predicted. The speed at which the glaciers melt depends on how fast they migrate. The Science Network indicates that the glacier movement may lead to a rise of about 3 feet by the beginning of the next century. Previously, a 9 foot rise in the area's water level had been anticipated.Reversing the trend of global warming and ice melting is more complicated. Reduction of carbon emissions is the easiest route since the current state of technological art exists for manufacturing machines that run on solar energy, wind power, electricity, natural gas and eventually nuclear fusion.
Freezing strategic tipping points in the Arctic is another possibility dependent on the advances in engineering thermodynamics, refrigeration and nuclear fusion. Freezing major tipping points is a capability which is farther out into the future but must be held in abeyance at this time. Right now, the art of using advanced engineering thermodynamics to refreeze tipping point portions of the poles may be tantamount to science fiction.
Building large scale solar powered desalination plants is another possibility for handling variable ocean levels. Desalination plants could be built along the African coastlines in Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, Liberia, Cameroon, Gabon, Angola, Namibia and South Africa.
In addition desalination plants could be built in South America in countries like Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. Collectively, these desalination plants operating simultaneously and collectively could have a slight impact on rising sea levels over time. There is a small model for sea level decrements in the Sea of Galilee where desalination plants have been built. This model is the converse of rising sea levels.
The logistical problem for building more desalination plants involves constructing highway and advanced pipeline infrastructure to deliver the water inland from the coastlines. These desalination projects could provide many countries with a better ecological and water infrastructure to grow food. After all, the world population may grow to nine billion by the middle of this century. A bigger global population will mean more water consumption and potentially water shortages even with the construction of more desalination plants.
Rising global waters could require building underwater cities to accommodate for the loss in land mass. Currently, there is an underwater city proposal for Amsterdam. The ruins of Cambay, India stand as an example of a city literally underwater.
Each strategy to anticipate global warming and its consequences will require a collective cooperation on an historic scale between countries that have not had to cooperate unilaterally in the past. The challenge is to examine each potential accommodation for global warming and implement the ones that have the greatest chance of feasibility in the short to intermediate term.
First Published on Blogcritics
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