The Physics
An encyclopedia of scientific essays

Area of the Polar Ice Caps

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Bibliographic Entry Result
(w/surrounding text)
Coble, Charles, & Elaine Murray. Prentice Hall Earth Science. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1986: 217. "The Antarctica ice cap is the largest in the world. It has an area of 34 million sq. km!" 34 × 106 km2
"Antarctica." The World Book Encyclopedia. World Book, 2000: 530. "Antarctica covers about 14,000,000 sq. km" 14 × 106 km2
Willis, Thayer. The Frozen World. London: Aldus, 1971: 186. "Antarctica ice cap covers more than 5 million sq. miles" 13 × 106 km2
Antarctica. CIA World Factbook. 1999. "Area: total: 14 million sq km
land: 14 million sq km (280,000 sq km ice-free, 13.72 million sq km ice-covered) (est.)"
13.72 × 106 km2
Greenland. CIA World Factbook. 1999. "Area: total: 2,175,600 sq km
land: 2,175,600 sq km (341,600 sq km ice-free, 1,834,000 sq km ice-covered) (est.)"
1.834 × 106 km2
Spaulding, Nancy, & Namowitz, Samuel. Heath Earth Science. DC: Heath, 1994: 195. "The Greenland glacier is about 1,700,000 sq km in area…." 1.7 × 106 km2
Willis, Thayer. The Frozen World. London: Aldus, 1971: 186. "Most of Greenland is also covered by an ice cap [2175600]" < 2.1756 × 106 km2
Cousteau, Jacques-Yves. The White Caps: The Ocean World of Jacques Cousteau. Canada: Danbury, 1975: 10. "Six million sq. miles of ice and cold." 16 × 106 km2

An ice cap (continental glacier) is one of the thick layers of ice and snow that covers large areas of land in the polar regions. The northern pole's ice cap covers Greenland and the southern pole's ice cap covers Antarctica. The Antarctic ice cap covers an area that's greater than the US, Mexico, and Central America put together and it has 90 percent of the world's total ice; it also has 70 percent of the world's fresh water. From my research, the total area of the polar ice caps ranges is most likely about 16 million square kilometers. The extreme result in the first source (Coble & Murray) is most likely in error.

Global warming affects the ice caps tremendously. Scientists have been able to record melting and the discovery of icebergs breaking off from Antarctica in recent years. They are concerned that the warming climate could damage the Antarctic ice sheet. The melting annually had raised the sea level by about one millimeter (one twenty-fifth of an inch). If the ice sheet melts, it could raise the sea level by 4.5 to 6.1 meters (15 to 20 feet), flooding low-lying coastal cities worldwide. The floods will not take place any time soon, but many environmentalists are thinking of ways to prevent this from happening before it's too late.

Julie Chen -- 2000