Significance of Glaciers

  • Glaciers and Thermo (heat) Haline (salt) Circulation: The melting fresh water from glaciers alters the ocean, not only by directly contributing to the global sea level rise, but also because it pushes down the heavier salt water, thereby changing the currents in the ocean.
  • Glaciers and winds: As the planet’s air conditioner, the polar ice caps impact weather and climate dynamics, such as the jet stream.
  • Glaciers and climate change: Glaciers are also early indicators of climate changes that will have a somewhat more delayed impact on other parts of the Earth system. Glaciers are sentinels of climate change.
  • Glaciers provide drinking water:  People living in arid climates near mountains often rely on glacial melt for their water for part of the year. e.g.: Ganges, Yangtze
  • Glaciers irrigate crops: In Switzerland’s Rhone Valley, farmers have irrigated their crops for hundreds of years by channelling meltwater from glaciers to their fields.
  • Glaciers help generate hydroelectric power: Scientists and engineers in Norway, central Europe, Canada, New Zealand, and South America have worked together to tap into glacial resources, using electricity that has been generated in part by damming glacial meltwater.