• Reading Levels 3 - 5
Geography

Glaciers

Scientists have been studying a vast ice sheet in Antarctica for months. Now, they warn that if it melts, the effects could be catastrophic . But what are glaciers? And why do they affect us? What are glaciers? Glaciers are huge masses of ice. They flow over land like water - but much more slowly. As a result, many people describe them as "rivers of ice". They form over hundreds of years where fallen snow compresses and turns into ice. In many glaciers, the ice is so compactedPressed down very tightly. that it is a bright, clear blue. Glaciers make up the largest store of water on the planet. In fact, they hold 75% of the world's freshwater. Are there different kinds? Yes! They are usually divided into two groups. Alpine glaciers form on mountainsides and move downwards over land. Over millions of years, they change the way the ground looks by forcing dirt and debris out of their way, creating whole valleys. The second kind is an ice sheet. These are not limited to mountainous areas. They spread out and cover much larger areas. As they grow, they cover everything around them including valleys, plains - even entire mountains. The largest ice sheets are known as continental glaciers and are found in GreenlandAn island country in North America that is part of the Kingdom of Denmark. It lies between the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Greenland is the world's largest island. and AntarcticaThe most southerly continent, surrounding the South Pole. Its area is estimated at 5.5 million square miles, most of it covered in ice.. Does anything live on them?Temperatures may be too low for humans, but some creatures depend on these icy conditions. All sorts of microbesVery small living things, also known as microorganisms. live on the surface of the ice - and under it. Many species of birds also visit the glaciers during the summer months. Whales, polar bears and seals are larger animals that roam the ice looking for food. How big are they? They are huge. To be considered an official glacier, the ice must cover 25 acres - or nearly 15 football pitches. The world's largest glacier is the Lambert Glacier in East Antarctica. It is nearly 100km wide and 2,500 metres deep. It is about 435km long — almost as wide as the UK. The Lambert Glacier is sometimes known as an ice stream because it moves faster than most glaciers. Its top speed is 1,200 metres per year. What's the problem? Last week, scientists announced that the Thwaites GlacierThe glacier is named after glacial geologist Fredrik Thwaites.  in Antarctica is melting faster than they thought. This is because of warm seawater from the other side of the world. It usually doesn't travel this far south. Now, it is arriving as a result of the unusually strong winds caused by the warming of the Pacific Ocean. When glaciers melt, sea levels rise. Scientists estimate that if all the world's glaciers melted, sea levels would rise by 65 metres — enough for London to be buried underwater. Is there anything we can do? Luckily, yes! Melting glaciers are just one example of how the world is being affected by global warming. We can all help by reducing our carbon footprintThe total amount of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide and methane) that are generated by our actions. China is the top emitter with 28% of the world’s total emissions. The US is second with 14%.. Some ways to do this are by wasting less electricity, finding alternatives to single-use plastic and eating food that is produced locally.KeywordsCompacted - Pressed down very tightly.

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