Virtual Trip… Over the Top

Ice Caps

Polar ice caps are dome-shaped sheets of ice found near the North and South Poles. They form because high-latitude polar regions receive less heat from the Sun than other areas on Earth. The polar ice caps contain the majority of Earth’s supply of freshwater, scientists estimate that 70% of Earth’s freshwater supply remains in an ice sheet at the South Pole.

Global Warming

As average temperatures at the poles have risen in recent years due to changes in the environment. The polar ice caps have started to melt and break apart. NASA satellite photographs show that the polar ice caps are shrinking 9° every 10 years.

The changing environment at the poles affects native people, animals, and plants. Animals such as seals, polar bears, and whales may be forced to change their natural migration patterns and people who live in coastal villages may have to abandon their homes as sea levels rise. The effects of the melting polar ice caps may one day be felt well beyond the poles. As the polar ice caps shrink, sea levels begin to rise, creating serious problems for coastal areas around the globe. Fortunately, we can do our part to slow down and prevent the environmental changes causing the polar ice melt. Scientists blame the use of fossil fuels, such as oil, coal, and gasoline, for the production of gases that trap heat in the atmosphere and lead to higher average temperatures. Scientists call this phenomenon “global warming.”

What can we do to prevent global warming? Conserve energy! Some communities have begun to use renewable resources, such as solar energy (from the Sun) and wind power. Doing our part, though, can be as simple as turning off a light switch when you leave a room!
This image shows ice in the Beaufort Sea, which is just north of Alaska. (Credit: Elisabeth Calvert, Hidden Ocean 2005 Expedition: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration)

Unlike Antarctica, there’s no land at the North Pole. Instead it’s all ice that’s floating on top of the Arctic Ocean. Over the past four decades, scientists have seen a steep decline in both the amount and thickness of Arctic sea ice during the summer and winter months. There is no territorial claim to the North Pole but it is governed by the Arctic Council

Using a compass won’t necessarily take you due north if you’re traveling to the North Pole. That’s because there’s a difference between the geographic North Pole and the geomagnetic North Pole, which is what compasses and that handy GPS app on your phone use. Geomagnetic poles change over time, so what was geomagnetic north 10 years ago isn’t the same as it is now. In other words, trekking from Greenland to the North Pole isn’t the best idea if you’re relying solely on a compass.

The North Pole

And there’s more…

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