The Physics
An encyclopedia of scientific essays

Thickness of the Antarctic Ice Cap

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Lutgens, Frederick K., & Edward J. Tarbuck. The Atmosphere. 6th ed., 1995: 397. "Elsmitte, at the center of the Greenland ice cap, rests an elevation of almost 3,000 meters, and much of Antarctica is even higher." > 3,000 m
"Ice Cap." World Book. Chicago: World Book, 2000: 19. "The ice cap has an average thickness of about 7,000 feet (2,100 m)." 2,100 m
"Fuchs and Hillary." The Grolier Student Library of Explorers and Exploration. Grolier, 1998: 71. "Throughout their trek, they took soundings which showed that the ice cap was up to 9,000 feet (2,700 m) thick, and that entire mountain ranges lay buried beneath the ice cap." 2,700 m
Bramwell, Martyn. Glaciers and Ice Caps. Belgium: Franklin Watts, 1986: 19. "The average thickness of the Antarctic ice is 2,000 m (6,500 feet), and the greatest measured thickness is more than 4,770 m (15,650 feet)." 4,470 m
Simon, Seymour. Icebergs and Glaciers. New York: Mulberry, 1987. "In some places, the Antarctic ice sheet is more than fifteen thousand feet thick." 4,500 m

The polar regions are boundless wilderness areas of bare rock and biting winds, of snowstorms, ice caps, and glaciers. Antarctica is a continent twice the size of Australia and covered by the world's largest ice sheet. The Arctic is a complete contrast; most of it is ocean, almost completely surrounded by land and covered for most of the year by thick floating ice. Nearly 85% of the world's permanent ice is contained in the great ice sheet of Antarctica.

When ice builds up over a mountain region, it fills the valleys. The ice forms a huge dome, parted only by uneven peaks of the highest mountains. About 15 million square kilometers (5.8 million square miles) of the dome is known as the ice cap. The greatest ever measured thickness of the Antarctic ice is more than 4,770 meters thick!

Because of human activities, the earth is in danger of global warming. Even a small-scale melting of the polar ice cap would cause flooding in the Netherlands, Northern Germany, parts of the Middle East, the Southern US and parts of lowland China. If more than three-quarters of the polar ice were to melt, the result would be disastrous! The world's coastlines would be entirely wiped out. Most of the world's ports and major cities would be drowned, and an extensive part of the world's productive farmland would be immersed.

May Sy -- 2000