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What Is Ice?

Shira Yehudit Djlilmand

Ice is what we put in drinks to cool them down and what we slip over on winter mornings. True, but there’s a lot more to know about ice …

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Ice, the solid form water takes when it’s frozen to below 32°F (0°C), is in plentiful supply in the world. About a tenth of the earth’s land surface is glaciated, covered with ice. That’s about six million square miles and around thirty million cubic kilometers of ice. Nine-tenths of the ice on earth is in southern Antarctica, the “frozen continent.” Ninety-eight per cent of Antarctica is covered in ice an average of a mile thick — all that ice adds up to almost 70 per cent of the planet’s fresh water. And yet strangely, Antarctica is considered the biggest desert on earth and the driest continent, as it gets less rainfall than anywhere apart from the Sahara Desert. Aside from the Antarctic ice cap, there is also ice in the Arctic northern polar region, as well as thousands of glaciers and frozen seawater.

It’s thanks to an amazing property of ice that we actually have water to drink. Most substances shrink when they are frozen, but water, bizarrely, expands. Because of this, ice is lighter than water, and so it floats. If ice did not float, gradually the earth’s waters would freeze, depriving us of our water supply, and killing all the creatures that live in the water.

We should also be grateful that all that ice stays frozen. If all the ice in the world were to melt, chas v’shalom, the oceans would rise about 180 feet (sixty meters), which would put twenty stories of the Empire State Building under water!

 

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