Changing Ice

Part of the Climate Change exhibition.

A stream of melt water cascading off the vast Arctic ice sheet which covers Greenland. The ice sheet is melting because of global warming.
Roger Braithwaite/Peter Arnold, Inc.


Ice is melting at the poles. Impacts will be global.

Ice shelves are massive, floating platforms of ice that surround the ice-covered continents of Antarctica and Greenland. When they melt, sea level isn't directly affected because this ice is already in the ocean. But scientists have learned that floating ice shelves act as dams to glaciers, which are flowing rivers of ice. After the Larsen B Antarctic ice shelf broke up in 2002, glaciers behind the shelf began flowing into the sea much more quickly. Movement of ice from land into the ocean makes sea level rise globally.

Additional Resources

Let's Talk with Christina Hulbe about Studying Ice Flows for Clues to Climate Change

What's better than watching ice melt? Building a computer model to simulate the melting! Ice flow plays an important role in everything from deep ocean circulation patterns to global warming.

Let's Talk with Martin Jeffries about Sea Ice and Climate in Antarctica

At the poles, it's possible to study sea ice that's 3,000 years old. Find out what scientists learn by cutting up ice cores and seeing the ice crystals' many different textures and colors.

Living on Ice

Can you solve these four chilly puzzles about how people and animals live in the Arctic? Put your story-telling skills to the test and collect new OLogy trading cards.


Arctic Story Puzzles

Life in the icy Arctic isn't so hard if you're prepared! Solve the puzzle of how people and polar bears live in a land of ice.

Melting Ice, Rising Seas

Travel to the edge of the Greenland Ice Sheet to find out what could happen if global warming melts it and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

Let's Talk with David Bromwich about Meteorology in the Poles

It takes only about a month for any change in Antarctica's weather to be felt in North America—pretty remarkable when you consider that Antarctica is 12,874 kilometers (8,000 miles) away.

Let's Talk with Gerd Wendler about Studying Polar Climate

Talk about the force of gravity—Antarctica's powerful katabatic winds thunder down from the high polar plateau to the coast, creating wind speeds that typically exceed 100 mph every winter month.


Melting Glaciers: Clues to Climate Change

Travel to the Peruvian Andes with a team of glaciologists, who are racing to observe the world's largest tropical ice cap—before global warming melts it away.