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ScienceSays: Rapidly melting ice caps lead to a creative solution

Submitted by Victoria Mugambi on February 16, 2017 – 11:55 pmNo Comment

It’s not new news that the polar ice caps are melting, and melting quickly. If anything it’s becoming almost normal; temperatures are rising, ice is melting and global warming is to blame. Scientists have been a broken record about the severity of the problem for years, but besides calling for the reduction of CO2 emissions, nothing new has been proposed to save the Arctic from permanently losing ice. That is, however, until now.

A study published in the journal, Earth’s Future, by researchers at Arizona State University proposed a plan that may be crazy enough to work. Their solution to the melting ice caps is to simply refreeze them.

Here’s how the proposed plan would work; approximately 10 million wind-powered pumps would draw up sea water and spill it over the surface of the ice. This would allow the ice to freeze a lot faster since the coldest part of the ice sheet is on the surface.

The study estimates that pumping a little more than one meter of water onto the ice surface would thicken the ice one meter (approximately three feet) over the course of a winter. According to Steve Desch, study leader and professor of astrophysics at Arizona State University, this would be “a significant change”, especially since the sea ice only grows between two to three meters in thickness during the winter.

Currently, the Arctic ice cap is at its thinnest; it barely measured three meters (approximately 10 feet) thick during summer 2016. This is important to the Earth’s climate because sea snow reflects about 90% of sunlight, and the ice reflects a little less than that. Without either one of those around we’re just left with the open waters, which absorbs about 90% of sunlight. With the absorption of all that sun, the temperature of Arctic waters, and the planet, rise; it also causes the Arctic permafrost to melt, releasing methane into the atmosphere and further adding to the greenhouse effect.

This plan is currently just theoretical, but could it really work? Desch explained that the proposal would only be a band aid solution to a continuing problem. Global warming would continue unless drastic measures to reduce CO2 emissions are taken. “…excess heat at lower latitudes would still be transported towards the Arctic…this would counter efforts to grow ice in the Arctic.” commented Julienne Stroeve, senior scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center.


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