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Can We Save the Arctic Ice With Glass? Some People Think So!

Written by Nihal Dhingra, a grade 9 student.

The Arctic sea ice reflects sunlight off its pristine white snow surfaces. This frozen sea at the top of the world acts as a giant screen that helps keep the planet cool and its temperature stable…

By I Kid You Not , in Environment Explained Science , at January 31, 2021 Tags: , , ,

Written by Nihal Dhingra, a grade 9 student

Each year during the winter months, the Arctic sea ice expands as the surface freezes. The month of March sees the maximum ice cover and September – the least, which is when the ice melts back.

In the 1980s, the average ice cover in July was 3.8 million square miles, whereas alarmingly in July 2020 the area covered fell to 2.8 million square miles.

This is a cause for worry.

Why is the ice cover loss so appalling?

Everything on our planet is interconnected, and drastic changes at one end often set off a ripple effect.

The Arctic sea ice reflects sunlight off its pristine white snow surfaces. This frozen sea at the top of the world acts as a giant screen that helps keep the planet cool and its temperature stable.

Now, with the Arctic Ice melting due to climate change and global warming, the opposite is happening – the earth is experiencing extreme temperatures and far too many natural disasters.

Rising temperatures mean more of this reflective white ice melts and warmer our planet gets, as dark blue waters absorb more of the sun’s rays making it warmer and thus melting more ice- a vicious circle.

With the planet warming, greenhouse emissions rise, and almost every aspect of life is affected – coastal erosion, loss of Artic natural habitat, rising sea levels, global warming, etc. are just a few of the disastrous repercussions of the Arctic ice melting.

So, what’s being done?

This has led the climate activists to come up with a rather unusual, out of the box plan.

California based non-profit “Artic Ice Project” has proposed an innovative solution – to scatter a thin layer of reflective glass powder over parts of the Arctic in an effort to protect it from the sun’s rays and help ice grow back. This reflective glass powder is actually silica beads that are naturally abundant in nature. The idea is that the glass will do what the ice did – that is reflect the sunlight back and help cool the earth.

The Arctic Ice Project -formerly known as ICE911 was launched by engineer Leslie Field in 2008.

Over the past decade, the same has been tried in lakes and ponds in Canada and America with positive results.

Will it work?

Hard to say.

Some biologists argue that the silica beads could be ingested (eaten/absorbed) by the local fauna and thus cause more harm than good.

Mark Serreze, a climate scientist who directs the US National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder says – “If you put down the silica beads in an area of fast-moving ocean currents, notably the Fram Strait, they will be quickly dispersed,” rendering them ineffective, he says.

Also, it’s going to be very, very cost heavy. The proposal would cost 1-5 billion dollars annually! This raises questions about who will pay for the project

Some have pointed out, however, that while the cost os high, it is nothing compared to what counmtires are having to spend on climate disasters – For instance, between 2017 and 2019, the US spent some $460bn on conditions caused by climate change.

It is for us to wait and watch whether such as enigmatic plan will give us positive results in the future.

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