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Study Reveals How Carbon Dioxide Accelerates Glacial Melting


Scientists already agree that rising man-made carbon-dioxide [CO2] is effecting the global warming phenomenon, with the implications of more extreme weather patterns and higher-than-average sea ice and glacial melting. With respect to the ice caps and glaciers, which take up 7% of the world’s land surface area, it is well-known that they play an important role in global climate regulation.

What researchers recently discovered is that the CO2 itself may also be accelerating the melting process and affecting the climate more than recently believed.

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT] have used computer simulations to determine the material properties of ice under different conditions. They discovered that higher concentrations of CO2 actually weakens the hydrogen bonds in the ice, which makes the ice more prone to fracture.

The study concludes, “Carbon dioxide molecules first adhere to the crack boundary by forming hydrogen bonds, and then migrate along the crack boundary towards the crack tip. The dissociation energy of hydrogen bonds at the crack tip is decreased under the attack by carbon dioxide. This migration attacking process repeats itself and renders the ice crystal more brittle by mediating crack propagation.”

Professor Markus Buehler, the study’s lead author, said, “If ice caps and glaciers were to continue to crack and break into pieces, their surface area that is exposed to the air would be significantly increase, which could lead to accelerated melting and reduced coverage area on the Earth.”

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