Climate Change Facts - Land & Ice Cap Impacts

  • Within 50 years, there could be irreversible drought (permanent desertification) in the southwestern US, Southeast Asia, Eastern South America, Western Australia, Southern Europe, Southern Africa, and northern Africa. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA), 2009)
  • The percentage of Earth's land area gripped by severe drought more than doubled from the 1970s to the early 2000s. (Dai, 2004)
  • Examples of recent regional droughts:
  • China’s northern region, where 10-meter deep cracks began to appear in fields. Without drastic changes in water use, there could be tens of millions of environmental refugees from China appearing within the next ten years. (Sept 2010)
  • Having just faced historic floods in 2009 due to a record rise in Amazon River water levels, several communities in Brazil’s Amazonas state have been isolated by drought and can no longer be accessed by boat, only by foot through the forest. (Sept 2010)  
  • Iraq, China, Chad, Australia, Mongolia, Africa’s Sahel region, among others, have been suffering drought conditions in 2010.      


  • Extreme weather events are becoming more intense and more frequent. (IPCC 2007)
Some of 2010’s major disaster events:
  • Russian heat wave and fires. The summer 2010 heat wave as well as the polluted air from the forest fires caused fatalities in Moscow to double to a total of 700 people per day. (Russian Academy of Sciences)  City officials of Moscow, Russia reported a 60% increase in the mortality rate this past summer, when nearly 11,000 of the city’s inhabitants perished due to the effects of excessive smog and record high temperatures.
  • Pakistani floods. Massive floods, the worst in nation’s history, result in about 2,000 fatalities, more than 20 million injured or homeless. One‐fifth of country was underwater.
  • Chinese landslides. Nationwide floods and landslides leave over 3,100 killed and over 1,000 missing in 2010 alone. Floods across China increased sevenfold since the 1950s.  
  • Brazil was also struck by extreme heavy floods in April and June 2010 with hundreds of fatalities each time.
  • Poland suffered her worst flooding in decades in May 2010.
  • Forest fires raged in Portugal in summer 2010, spurred on by low humidity levels, strong winds, and temperatures reaching record highs of 40 degrees Celsius.
  • In Chad and Nigeria in 2010, drought then floods that wiped out the small amounts of food crops left after the drought.
  • Extreme cold and snow storms in 2010 in India, Northern Europe, North America, and South America
  • A lot of earthquakes and volcano activity in 2010 disrupted Indonesia, Iceland, Turkey, Chile, Haiti, etc.
  • Global warming can cause ice-capped volcanoes like Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull to more easily erupt due to the ice loss causing a release of pressure on the hot rocks beneath the Earth’s surface. (Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, 2010)
  • Landslides and avalanches in high mountains have increased over the past decade due to global warming. Volcanoes are increasingly at risk of collapse with mega-landslides that could bury cities. (David Pyle, a volcanologist at the University of Oxford, Bill McGuire of University College London and Rachel Lowe at the University of Exeter, UK)
  • Glacial lake outburst floods are increasing as lakes from glacial melt grow in number and size. (International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu, 2010)

  • Africa had the second highest net annual loss of forests in 2000-2010, with an alarming 3.4 million hectares that disappeared each year.
  • Deforestation accounts for approximately 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Trees absorb less carbon as climate warms.  Forests could even start to release huge amounts of CO2 from trees and soil (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2003. Finnish Environment Institute, 2010) They already do release CO2 in huge amounts through forest fires.
  • Bark beetle infestations in North American forests are spreading with global warming and turning forests into carbon emitters. (Nature, 2008)


  • Atmospheric methane in the Arctic has spiked sharply upward, increasing 33% in just 5 years. (Paul Palmer, a scientist at Edinburgh University, 2010) Melting permafrost in Siberia is releasing five times the amount of methane than was previously thought. (Dr. Katie Walter, 2006) The East Siberian Arctic Shelf’s shallow undersea permafrost is also showing instability and releasing significant amounts of methane. (Professor Igor Semiletov, head of the International Siberian Shelf Study (ISSS), University of Alaska at Fairbanks, USA, 2010) The Arctic tundra is already emitting significantly more methane and nitrous oxide than previously estimated. (Prof. Greg Henry, University of British Columbia) Some scientists are calling the thawing Arctic a “ticking time bomb.”
  • This year’s summer Arctic sea ice was at its third smallest area on record, with all three most shrunken area events occurring within the past four years. (US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), 2010 annual report)

  • Current warming makes it unlikely that the Arctic will return to its previous conditions. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Arctic Report Card 2010 Update, USA)
  • In winter 2009-2010, Arctic warming brought severely cold winds and heavy snow to eastern North America and eastern Eurasia. (Dr. James Overland of the NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, USA, 2010)
  • Overall warming has extended the annual melting period for Arctic sea ice to 20 days longer now than three decades ago, meaning more heat can be absorbed by the Arctic sea, and big impacts on marine ecosystems and North American climate.  (NASA 2010)
  • Due to disappearing ice, polar explorers were able for the first time to journey around the North Pole in a small fiberglass sailing boat, a feat that would have been impossible even 10 years ago without an ice-breaker ship because the passages were sealed with ice. (Norwegian polar explorer Borge Ousland, voyage started in June 2010)
  • The Arctic is warming at twice the rate of anywhere else on Earth.
  • The Arctic sea ice cover in 2007 was the lowest ever recorded and the Northwest Passage was navigable for the first time. Only 10% now is older and thick ice, while over 90% is newly formed and thin. Scientists forecast a completely ice-free summer as soon as 2012 or 2013.
  • Without the protective ice to reflect sunlight, 90% of the sun's heat can enter the open water, thus accelerating global warming.
  • The world’s two major ice sheets, GREENLAND AND ANTARCTICA, are now melting at accelerated rates, whereas before 2000, they were thought to be stable.
  • In fact, Greenland is seeing its worst ice melt and glacial area loss in at least five decades. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Arctic Report Card 2010 Update, USA)   Glaciers have recently doubled or tripled their movements toward the sea. (Ian Joughin, University of Washington , 2010)  “Icequakes” caused by breaking icebergs have more than tripled since 1993. (Göran Ekström and Meredith Nettles, Columbia University, USA, 2010)  The possible, complete loss of the Greenland Ice Sheet would result in a 7-meter sea level rise.
  • Melt water speeding the Greenland Ice Sheet melt could cause its disintegration over decades rather than centuries, as previously forecast. (Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) in Colorado, USA)
  • On August 5, 2010, one-quarter of Greenland’s Petermann Glacier, four times the size of New York’s Manhattan island and the largest in nearly half a century, broke off. "The freshwater stored in this ice island could keep the Delaware or Hudson rivers flowing for more than two years,"  said Professor Andreas Muenchow of the University of Delaware.
  • On the Antarctic Peninsula, 99% methane gas has been seen continuously bubbling up in certain areas of the water’s surface. (Argentine geologist Dr. Rodolfo del Valle)
  • A major review published in 2009 found that especially Antarctica’s ice shelves on the Western Peninsula are retreating at an ever-accelerating rate, speeded by warming waters beneath the shelves.   
  • Over 2008, the Wilkins Ice Shelf on the Western Antarctic Peninsula disintegrated. In 2002, the vast 12,000-year-old Larsen B Ice Shelf took only three weeks to disintegrate entirely.


  • More than 46,000 glaciers and permafrost expanses are thawing rapidly in “the Third Pole,” the Earth’s 3rd largest store of ice after the Arctic and Antarctic, located on the Tibetan plateau and Himalayas. Known as “Asia’s water tower,” the region’s glacial retreat could affect more than 1.5 billion people across 10 countries. (Third Pole Environment program led by Chinese Academy of Sciences, 2010)
  • With Bolivia’s 18,000-year-old Chacaltaya Glacier already gone, other South American Andean glaciers could disappear within a few decades.
  • Kyrgyzstan’s glaciers are receding 3 times as fast as 1950s, or as much as 50 meters per year. 95% of the glaciers could be gone by the end of the century. (Institute of Hydro Energy at the National Academy of Sciences in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan)
  • Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro has lost 85% of its glacier cover since 1912 and could be completely gone in 20 years. (Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 2009)
    The US’ Glacier National Park is set to be glacier-free by 2020, 10 years earlier than previously forecast. (US Geological Survey, 2009)

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