Melting Ice Cap Triggering Earthquakes, Endangering Wildlife

Just when you think it can't possibly get any worse—well, it does. The Greenland ice cap is apparently melting so quickly that it is triggering earthquakes, as pieces of ice several cubic kilometers in size break off.

Already, the Arctic ice cap has shrunk to the lowest level ever recorded, according to a new analysis from Seattle researchers. But scientists monitoring the meltdown say the acceleration could be catastrophic in terms of sea-level rise, making predictions by the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change in February far too low.Almost in a case of the history of human hubris repeating itself, albeit on a much grander scale, the glacier at Ilulissat, which supposedly spawned the iceberg that sank the Titanic, is now flowing three times faster into the sea than it did a decade ago.

"We have seen a massive acceleration of the speed with which these glaciers are moving into the sea," Robert Corell, chairman of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, said in Ilulissat yesterday. "The ice is moving at 2 meters an hour on a front 5km [3 miles] long and 1,500 meters deep. That means that this one glacier puts enough fresh water into the sea in one year to provide drinking water for a city the size of London for a year."

About 40 percent of the floating ice blanketing the top of the world in the summer will be gone by 2050, says James Overland, an oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, rather than in nearly a century, as earlier studies had predicted.

But even a 40 percent loss of ice would prove devastating to ice-dependent animals such as walruses and ringed seals, says Overland. And gray whales will suffer if the ice-loving crustaceans they feed on disappear.

Pity, most of all, the polar bear: As their fragile habitat melts beneath them, polar bears are being shot in "alarming numbers," by rich trophy hunters from the United States, Europe, and Japan, says The Independent. But even without the help of itchy trigger fingers, two-thirds of the world's polar bears could disappear by 2050 as climate change continues to melt the Arctic's sea ice, according to a series of U.S. governmental studies released last week.

Meanwhile on Friday, a group of Christian, Shia, Sunni, Hindu, Shinto, Buddhist, and Jewish religious leaders took boat to the tongue of the glacier for a "silent prayer for the planet." ::Guardian Unlimited, ::Seattle Times, ::The Independent, and ::National Geographic

Tags: Arctic | Biodiversity | Glaciers

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