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If climate changes continues, snow fields and glaciers in Canada's north will shrink,...

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islnds | Valedictorian

Posted December 21, 2011 at 7:25 AM via web

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If climate changes continues, snow fields and glaciers in Canada's north will shrink, which exposes the arctic soil and thaws decaying organic matter that had been beneath the ice and snow. Why can these consequences make climate change occur even faster?

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justaguide | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 21, 2011 at 12:22 PM (Answer #1)

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The ice sheets that cover the polar regions of the Earth reflect a large amount of radiation that the Earth receives from the Sun away from the Earth. The surface reflectivity or albedo of ice can be as high as 90%. On the other hand water only has an albedo of 8%. In other words while ice reflects 90% of the solar radiation falling on it, water only reflects 8% of the radiation and the other 92% is absorbed.

This results in a very large amount of heat that would have been reflected away from the Earth being absorbed, and increases global temperatures even further.

Another reason why the thawing of polar ice sheets exacerbates the problem of global warming is that there is a large amount of dead organic matter lying beneath the ice sheets. When this is exposed to the atmosphere it starts to decay and the process of decay releases a large amount of carbon dioxide and methane which are gases that contribute to an increase in the greenhouse effect.

These are some of the reasons why the consequences of climate change create a feedback system that leads to further global warming.

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