Geography Oceanography, and Weather

Rain, Ice, and Geography

How much ice is there covering Antarctica and Greenland?

Most of the world’s fresh water is stored in the form of ice covering the continent of Antarctica: an amazing 70 percent! Furthermore, 90 percent of all the Earth’s ice is also found in the southernmost continent. The ice covering Antarctica is as much as two miles (3.2 kilometers) thick in places. Scientists have found that the ice is getting deeper in the central part of the continent, while on the outer edges it seems to be melting. Although scientists do not understand why yet, the ice on the western side of the continent seems to be getting thicker overall, while in the east it is getting thinner. Overall, the total amount of ice appears to be at stable levels, in contrast to ice in the Northern Hemisphere. It is difficult to say how much ice is covering Greenland, because there it is melting so quickly. In the late 1990s, the large island had an ice cap that contained about 720,000 cubic miles (three million cubic kilometers) of ice. At that time, the ice was melting at a rate of about 21.6 cubic miles (90 cubic kilometers) per year. As of 2005, that rate has increased to 36 cubic miles (150 cubic kilometers).


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