A glacier is a mass of thick ice that moves over time (Fraser et al., 2014). Glaciers form when a large amount of snow accumulates over a long period, usually decades or centuries. Glaciers deform over time due to the pressure and stress imposed by their mass (Fraser et al., 2014). Glaciers, it was thought, melted slowly and naturally. However, due to increased human activities such as industrialization and pollution, the temperature of the earth’s surface has risen, resulting in global warming, which allows glaciers to melt more quickly (Rose et al., 2015). Scientists believe that if human activities that pollute the environment are not controlled, they pose a severe threat to humanity’s survival. Rising in temperature may result in destabilization of the balance between glaciers accumulation and ablation. Consequently, glaciers begin to retreat. Therefore, increase in earth temperature will mean that most of the glaciers will melt and seawater levels will rise (Ma et al., 2010).
Studies show that before the start of global warming arising from human activities, glaciers were melting due to the effects of natural occurrences such as volcanic eruptions and solar variability. However, scientist claim that in comparison to anthropogenic causes of global warming due to carbon dioxide emissions, variations in solar radiations and volcanic eruptions play a minor role in glacier recession or expansion (Ma et al., 2010). Volcano eruptions emit carbon (IV) oxide into the atmosphere and cause environmental pollution, leading to increased temperatures. Consequently, the increase in global temperatures results in the meltdown of glaciers (Fraser et al., 2014).
However, according to Fraser et al., (2014), satellite images captioned between 1991 and 2010 show that glaciers were melting down at a more rapid pace than anticipated, hence raising concerns on environmental sustainability. With the rapid speed of the glaciers meltdown attributed to the impact of global warming, it is clear that the earth will lose its glacier blanket. Glaciers are significant reservoirs of freshwater on Earth. Glaciers store water during the cold season in the form of ice and later release the water through the slow melting process. Therefore, if the glaciers vanish; there is a likelihood of lacking clean, fresh water on Earth in the coming decades (Ma et al., 2010). Therefore, the primary objective of this study is to indicate how the impact of human activities increases the global meltdown of the glaciers on several mountains.
Historical Patterns of Glacial Retreat
According to Mark, Bury, McKenzie, & French (2010), glacier retreat can be seen in Glacier National Park in the U.S., where the terminus of glaciers have retreated in the previous century and can vanish before the following century. In Europe, where there is inexhaustible authentic data, the glacier retreat has been monotonic since the mid-nineteenth century. There are several reports on the progression of global temperatures. However, there is less research showing the impact of global warming on the glacier levels in Europe (Mark et al., 2010).
Several studies which concur with past autonomous temperature reconstructions have been done to measure and extrapolate temperatures since the 1600 A.D (Rose et al., 2015). The studies have shown a significant rise in surface temperatures which have resulted in a consistent reduction in glacier volumes. However, environmental changes taking place in a particular region do not necessarily mean that the glacier melting pattern occurs uniformly across the world. Reason to varying glacial retreat is the level of pollution experienced in the area (Rose et al., 2015). For example, in China where industrial evolution is at a high pace, global warming is also at a more rapid speed as compared to Africa where industrial developments are still at the early stages (Rose et al., 2015).
The period between the year 1550 and 1850 is known as the Little Ice Age. During this time earths temperatures were relatively low (Mark et al., 2010). In the 1940, earth’s temperatures started rising considerably due to increased human activities. In the 1980s, glaciers began to retreat as earth temperatures began to increase gradually. As a result, a significant amount of glacier melted (Mark et al., 2010).
The other factor that contributes to global warming is the advent of new technology. Evidently, as time goes by, human generation invent new ways of doing things, some of which significantly result to environmental pollution and destabilization of climatic patterns (Gagne et al., 2014). Change of climate patterns results in more adverse conditions that are detrimental to earth’s natural balance, leading to effects such as the meltdown of glaciers, due to the increased temperatures (Chen et al., 2013).
1) Are anthropogenic activities indirectly or directly linked to the melting of glaciers?
2) Which human practices are the actual causes of melting of glaciers?
3) How can such human practices resulting in melting of glaciers be controlled?
Analysis and Discussion
Worldwide Carbon Dioxide Concentration and how it Accelerates Glacier Melting Process
Fig 1: Le Quéré, et al., 2015). The global carbon budget 1959-2011
Use of Fossil Fuels
One of the most known anthropogenic activities that produce large amounts of carbon dioxide is the burning of fossil fuels. The combustion of these fuels generates energy that is widely used by human for the daily operations such as running industries, machines and vehicles. The burning of fuels produces 87% of the carbon (IV) oxide emissions to the atmosphere. Anything involving non-renewable energy sources has a carbon (IV) oxide discharge ticket attached. For instance, combustion of the fuels gives out energy. In the process of combution of the fossil fuels, carbon reacts with oxygen to form Carbon (IV) oxide. When released into the atmosphere, Carbon (IV) oxide result to a greenhouse effect thus preventing dessipation of heat waves away from the earths surface. Consequently, earths temperatures rises thus resulting to melting of glaciers (Le Quéré et al., 2015).
Land Use Changes
Studies show that land use change is another substantial source of carbon (IV) oxide to the atmosphere resulting in 9% of the gas’ concentration in the atmosphere contributed by human activities (Le Quéré et al., 2015). One of the land use change includes deforestation. Studies show that trees are a significant air purifier since they consume carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the atmosphere (Gagne et al., 2014). However, when trees are cut down, the air purifying phenomenon is altered thus increase the concentration of carbon (IV) oxide in the atmosphere. As a result of high concentration of carbon (IV) oxide, the surface temperature rises and intensifies glacier meltdown process (Fraser et al. 2014).
Industrial activities account 4% of the sources of Carbon (IV) oxide in the atmosphere. Most industrial operations result to direct emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere due to the vast amounts of Carbon dioxide released from the industries (Le Quéré et al., 2015). The growth of industrialization leads to significant rise in global temperatures which in turn hastens the melting down of glaciers (Kääb, Andreas, et al., 2012).
Global Temperature Increase and the Impacts on World Glaciers
Figure 2: Le Quéré, et al., 2015). Figure showing different continents with varying temperature levels.
The figure represents the temperature on various continents. It is noticeable that the highly industrialized regions are the same locales that show higher temperature patterns. With increased temperatures, glaciers are likely to meltdown at a rapid speed and thus leading increase in sea water that may lead to flooding (Le Quéré et al., 2015)
How to Control the Human Activities that Cause Rapid Glacier Retreat
It is imperative to control human activities that result in rapid glacier retreat to protect the environment and ensure sustainability. One of the methods is to establish various monitoring operations to detect changes in climate and its impact on glacier levels. For instance, there is need to come up with effective legislation that will guide and control the use of fossil fuels in the daily activity of human beings and also deter other factors that contribute to global warming (Mark et al., 2010).
The second approach is to develop technologies that purify gas emitted from industries. By establishing carbon dioxide purifiers, it will be possible to cut down emissions into the atmosphere. Moreover, the human activities such as deforestation should be discouraged. Since trees act as carbon dioxide purifiers, people should be motivated to plant more trees and engage in activities that will facilitate the restoration of climatic patterns (Ma et al., 2010). Another approach is controlling the amount of carbon dioxide emission to the atmosphere by industries. If measures are set and regularly monitored, industries can minimize their emission of carbon (IV) oxide to an acceptable level. Also, having international policy experts’ negotiations is a critical step to ensure that global warming is under control (Le Quéré et al., 2015)
Lastly, it is vital for human beings to take environmental conservation as an individual role to ensure that the environment is conserved. The environmental conservation ways involve the use of renewable sources of energy for power, investing in green energy technologies and ensuring that before choosing a power company it is essential to assess whether the company uses renewable sources to produce electricity. Additionally, it is crucial to minimize deforestation as a means of controlling the concentration of carbon (IV) oxide in the atmosphere. The presence of more trees ensures natural purification of air thus reducing the concentration of Carbon (IV) oxide in the atmosphere (Gagne et al.,2014)
Glaciers are the primary source and store of fresh water on Earth. Water is stored in the form of ice in mountain and released during hot seasons due to the melting of glaciers. Human activities intensify a rapid retreat of glaciers and thus endangering the existence of glacier in the future decades. Carbon (IV) oxide concentrations and temperature levels vary in different continents. Highly industrialized nations experience rapid glacial retreat as compared to the less industrialized areas. It is essential to regulate the human activities to safeguard the future generation by reducing the pace of glacier retreat.
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