Somehow we could stop the Arctic Icebergs from melting

An engineer has discovered a way so that somehow we could stop the Arctic icebergs from melting by spreading millions of tiny glass beads over the icebergs to reflect sunlight away.

The Cycle of an Iceberg: From Glacier to the Ocean
  • Scientists have discovered that melting in Greenland and Antarctica is occurring much faster than they previously thought. This year, the extent of Arctic sea ice was the second-lowest ever recorded.
  • Polar ice melt contributes to sea-level rise and also leads the planet to heat up faster, since ice reflects sunlight back into space.
  • An organization called Ice911 has proposed scattering tiny, glass spheres across parts of the Arctic to reflect more sunlight back into space and slow the thaw.
Leslie Field at the Ice911 Arctic test site in Utqiaġvik, Alaska.

The Icebergs at Arctic are melting at very fast rates: Greenland’s ice is melting six times faster than it was 40 years ago. In August 2019, 60 billion tons of  ice sheet melted in just 5 days of summer.

Over the last 40 years, we’ve lost 75% of the volume of Arctic ice. The current extent of the sea ice is the second-lowest it’s been since scientists started keeping track in 1979.

In addition to raising sea levels, this melting significantly contributes to climate change because Arctic ice reflects sunlight into space (in part because sea ice is bright and white). So less ice means less heat leaving the planet, which in turn leads more ice to melt. It’s a vicious cycle.

Ice911 is a non profit organisation that offers a potential solution to this global threat: The group has proposed that spreading millions of hollow, glass microspheres over the important parts of the Arctic to form a protective layer that reflects sunlight and protects the melting of ice. Somehow we could stop the Arctic icebergs from melting

“We’re an awfully creative species, and we need to slow the climate-change clock,” Leslie Field, the founder of Ice911, told in an interview. “Technology like this gives us time to act.”

How this could be done ?

In this process, The tiny beads would work as a reflector of sunlight

Ice911, a non profit organisation has developed tiny spheres which looks more like grains of sand than beads. They are made from silica, a compound made of silicon and oxygen, because the material is present in excess amount in the natural world and harmless to humans and animals.

Field described the microspheres as “small, fine, white beach sand” that floats. In a sense, the material is a lot like snow.

The reflective beads stick to ice and water on contact, and their chemical composition ensures they don’t attract oil-based pollutants. Simulations done by Ice911 suggest that using the technology to restore ice reflectivity could help lower temperatures by 1.5 degrees Celsius over a large part of the northern Arctic. Somehow we could stop the Arctic icebergs from melting.

But so far, the technology is still in the field-test phase. Field said Ice911 started with “a very small experiment in buckets” on the deck of her own home, then conducted small tests at a lake in the Sierra Nevada mountains and a pond in Minnesota.

In the last two years, Field and her colleagues have brought the microspheres to the Arctic, where they spread the material over a frozen lake near Utqiaġvik (Barrow), Alaska. The results, some of which were reported in a May 2018 study, suggest the silica beads did indeed increase ice reflectivity and thickness.

Ice911’s beads are tested in a small area of North Meadow Lake at the Barrow Environmental Observatory in Alaska.

Field doesn’t want to blanket all 1.6 million square miles of Arctic sea ice with the beads, though. Instead, her team is using climate models to pinpoint strategic parts of the Arctic where the microspheres could have maximum impact. One of these areas, she said, is the Fram Strait between Greenland and Svalbard – a hotspot of melting. That region is warming nearly four times faster than the global average. “This is where ice floes come to die, and the cemetery is filling faster each year,” climate physicist Till Wagner told The Guardian earlier this year. Field thinks that in three years, Ice911’s technology could be deployed to curb this floe demise. But she estimates it would cost about $5 billion to scatter the microspheres on a meaningful scale. Somehow we could stop the Arctic icebergs from melting.  

“When you look at that cost, it’s big,” she said. “But the cost of doing nothing is far greater.”
For now, she said, Ice911 still needs to conduct more tests and get proper permissions from governments and environmental groups before considering any large-scale deployment.

Melting of Arctic's Ice and its impact on Humans

In 1979, Arctic sea ice stretched about 2.7 million square miles (7 million square kilometers). By last month, the extent had dropped to 1.7 million square miles (4.3 million square kilometers). According to NASA data, this year has tied 2007 for the second-lowest sea ice extent on record. The worst year was 2012, when the ice shrank to under 1 million square miles (2.6 million square kilometers).

Researchers at the European Space Agency have warned that the current rate of carbon emissions means we could see an ice-free Arctic in just decades. Somehow we could stop the Arctic icebergs from melting

Field describes polar ice as Earth’s “heat shield.” The Arctic’s oldest, thickest sea ice lifts the heaviest load in terms of reflecting sunlight, but that’s what’s thawing fastest. About 95% of this bright, multi-year-old sea ice disappeared in 2018.

That’s the ice that Ice911 wants to save.

In the recent past, scientists have discovered an alarming rate of glacier melting. And even though glaciers are reported to be the source of the fresh water available in the world, the concern is the current rate at which the melting ice is pouring into the sea. This intense melting of glaciers is producing a big ripple effect like extreme flooding and biodiversity loss, and scientists have warned that the world is losing its ice fast.


Impact on Humans

Power supply by glacier melting

1. Power supply shortage

Many places across the world depend entirely on the constant flowing water from glaciers that are melting in producing electricity. Reducing or stopping the flowing of water will mean stopping the production of electricity. The modern world cannot do without electricity, in which case people will shift to other forms of producing electricity, some of which will end up polluting the environment and further increase global warming.

flood due to melting glacier

2. Extreme flooding

There are areas on higher altitudes that have ice glaciers , and they are all thawing quickly, the melting is causing a quick rise in water input to other water bodies such as the rivers, lakes, and seas. The excess water may lead to the creation of new lakes that will continue growing in size.
These happenings are very alarming because the water bodies could be very large in volume. The result is overflowing, which will be a major disaster as they will destroy everything on its way, and making thousands of people homeless like the case in Bangladesh.

Biodiversity loss

3. Biodiversity loss and animals losing homes

There are a lot of living organisms that rely mainly on glaciers for continued existence. Some animals require the cool temperatures for their day to day activities like the blue bear.

Certain birds also rely on fish that are found in freshly melting glaciers. With the increasing water temperatures and water levels, this will start affecting aquatic plants. In consequence, the fish species will reduce and so will be the survival of the birds and animals that are dependent and adapted to the glacier habitats

Glacier coral reefs

4. Coral Reefs will disappear

Coral reefs need sunlight for the process of photosynthesis, enabling their survival. When water levels increase due to glacier melting, sufficient sunlight will not be able to reach the corals. This will weaken their quality, and probably end up killing them in the long run. There are fish species that depend on the corals for food, without the coral reefs, they will also die. Additionally, individuals who rely on fish for food in such areas will be affected.

Ancient virus

5. Recontamination of the environment

A lot of individuals may not be familiar with DDT and a lot of other such pesticides because they were banned all over the globe years ago. Research says that a lot of such chemical pollutants and pesticides became airborne and finally got deposited in the chilly places that contain glaciers, and for some time, the harmful chemicals stayed trapped in the layers. The rapid melting of glaciers is now discharging the chemicals back into the surroundings and water bodies.

melting ice glaciers affect the whole world

6. The economic costs of melting ice glaciers affect the whole world

The consequences of ice glaciers melting have not only been restricted to one part of the world, but to the whole globe. Each continent is experiencing the adverse effects of quickly melting ice glaciers such as flooding and other glacier-related disasters, which require huge intervention financial capital to mitigate. The worst part is that it is not possible to stop the fast melting of the glaciers due to the escalating rate of global warming.

Reduction of agricultural production

7. Reduction of agricultural production

Agricultural plants that mainly depend on the rain will most likely not get affected by the melting glaciers. Nevertheless, such places are few and do not contribute to the major portion of agricultural lands. In the dry periods, fresh water from glaciers will be in short supply, causing drying of the land which is not suitable for farming. The consequence will be a reduction in overall agricultural production.

Scarcity of fresh water

8. Scarcity of fresh water

Studies show that only 2% of the water available is fresh water that people can consume. Over 70% consists of glaciers and snow. Water that has melted gets renewed by turning into ice through cooling to form glaciers. In lots of areas in the universe, it is the main source of fresh. However, with the increase in population and reducing the mass of glaciers, there will be a serious scarcity of fresh water in the coming years.

Increasing global warming

9. Increasing global warming

Glaciers play a significant role in reflecting and absorbing the heat on earth. This means that as glaciers keep on melting, temperatures all over the world will at the same rate keep on increasing. In some places, small ice glaciers have already disappeared, exposing the earth. The earth is not able to deflect as much heat as glaciers can thus heat will keep on increasing, more glaciers continue melting and water levels keep on increasing.

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