Chapter 8

Glaciers, Ice Sheets, Sea Ice, and Permafrost Areas

Hubert Engelbrecht


The global ice volume, thickness, and coverage has been shrinking since ca. 1900. Since 1950, this has been caused by the anthropogenic part of atmospheric warming. The following effects of ice mass wasting and deglaciation are discussed: diminution of ice albedo; input of huge meltwater masses into the oceans and its influence on oceanic circulation and contribution to sea level rise; more frequent landslides, rockfalls, and glacial lake outburst floods; switching of cryospheric sinks into sources; secondary transportation of released pollutants by meltwater and deterioration of drinking water quality; transition of alpine runoff regimes from icemelt to snowmelt domains; decrease of Arctic land ice and multiyear sea ice; diminution of terrestrial permafrost<sup>1</sup> zones; thawing induced destabilisation of Arctic technical infrastructure; emission of CO2 and CH4 from permafrost areas because of enhanced microbial activity; labilisation of shelf permafrost zones due to boreal sea water warming; and increasing primary production adjacent to decreasing shelf ice areas and to drifting icebergs. Warming and deposition of water or wind driven particulate contaminants (e.g. microplastic, aerosol) in high latitudes are fostered by the Arctic Amplification effect and by the global distillation phenomenon. Shrinkage of highlatitude ice occurred due to heat transfer from the atmosphere and sea water (retreat of grounding line). Pollution of Arctic regions has occurred due to poor decommissioning of military facilities and to oil spills.

Total Pages: 86-98 (13)

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