Science has known for decades that global warming is melting humongous glaciers at the North and South Poles. Left unchecked, this pattern could cause catastrophic flooding along our coastlines. But scientists might finally have a plan to stop the melting. And it’s not a subtle one.
Glaciers Need Protection From Warm Water
Glaciers go all the way down to the bottom of the ocean. Temperatures at the surface of the ocean are still frigid in the Arctic. Due to ocean patterns, warm water impacts the bottom of the glacier before it reaches the top.
Once the bottom core of a glacier melts, the surface of the glacier falls apart, and the smaller chunks melt at an even faster rate. When these huge ice structures fall apart, they leak tons of fresh water into the ocean. This causes the ocean to rise, and can eventually flood coastlines far away from the melting glaciers.
What’s The Plan?
Scientists have proposed an idea to stop the melting from the bottom up. They want to build massive walls of up to 1.5 cubic kilometers thick at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean.
The walls, made of a heavy-duty rock and sand mixture, will block warm water from reaching the bottom of the glacier. That means that the foundation of the glacier will stay attached to the seafloor and won’t melt.
Will It Work?
There are two ways to execute the plan. We can either build one large wall for each glacier or a line of smaller walls. Based on computer models, scientists have hypothesized that a single big wall has a higher chance of success. The problem is, building a big wall is a much more difficult task than building a smaller one.
It will be a logistical challenge to safely get the wall building materials to the bottom of the ocean. Any machinery used must be able to withstand extreme pressure and subzero temperatures. Still, scientists are optimistic about this project for a few reasons.
It’s Been Done Before
This idea will certainly be the first time anyone has tried to build an underwater wall in the Arctic seas, but similar projects have been successful in other parts of the world. There are manmade islands that are held in place by the same kind of rock and sand mixture that scientists propose we use to make the Arctic walls.
While scientists point to the man-made islands as a sort of “proof of concept,” Arctic walls pose their own unique challenges, like their faraway location, as well as freezing water temperatures, which will make these massive walls especially hard to build.
More Work To Be Done
Unfortunately, this new solution is only a temporary fix. The bottoms of the glaciers will be protected from warm water for a time, but if ocean temperatures continue to rise due to pollution, the glaciers will still be threatened.
This effort will only slow the process of glaciers melting. This will give politicians and citizens around the world more time to make lifestyle and regulatory changes that will slow global warming.