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Summary and recap

Throughout this week, we have taken a tour of some of the most important and significant aspects of modern glaciology.

We have learned about what glaciers and ice sheets are, and how they are responding to a changing climate. We have learned about water (the primary product of melting ice) and what this does to glacier motion and surface albedo, and we have also learned about the importance of water for feeding river networks. We have also explored methods for monitoring, measuring and modelling glaciers and ice sheets, so as to gain a better understanding of their behaviour, and finally considered the future of our planet’s ice masses.

Climate change is perhaps the most pressing concerns facing the planet today, and the way in which glaciers and ice sheets are impacted by this is of the utmost importance. We, as human beings, are affected by changing glaciers in a multitude of ways, just a few of which are outlined and touched upon here, but it is beyond doubt that changing glaciers are of great importance as we look to the future and our existence on planet Earth.

There are many issues that we will have to deal with as our climate continues to change and glaciers recede as a result, and it is not at all clear if we are actually able to do much to respond to these changes. Perhaps, as we advance technologically we will develop new and ground-breaking geoengineering approaches to limit the impacts of retreating glaciers, but it is dangerous to pin so much hope on unknown technology.

What is certain though is that we stand a greater chance of successfully coping with glacier change if we understand glaciers more and understand they behaviour more. This requires ongoing monitoring and measuring of change and further understanding of processes so as to better predict the future. Fundamentally however, it also requires that we, as a global population, are able to make the necessary changes to our lifestyles to reduce the impact of climate change, and the harm done to our glaciers. This requires us, as individuals, to act and do what we can to protect our fragile planet, but it also required our governments and leaders to take large, sweeping steps to lead and guide us along this path. If we can do this collectively then our future, and that of our beautiful planet, is bright.

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This article is from the free online course:

Tackling Environmental Challenges for a Sustainable Future

University of York