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Using GIS Software for Tracking Polar Ice Cap Shrinking, Essay Example

Pages: 6

Words: 1656

Essay

Geographic Information System (GIS) software is used to properly analyze current geographical data in order to show previous geographic histories while being able to possibly predict future geographic outcomes and changes in environmental structure.  Researchers and scientists are interested in using the GIS software to produce information on real, everyday events that may provide useful information in the real world.  For instance, such a problem as the melting of the polar ice caps can be predicted and the history of the issue can be analyzed through using the multiple capabilities associated with the GIS software.  With regards to this problem, researchers and scientists can analyze the true extent of the problem and properly define the cause and effect that melting polar ice caps have on the global environment.  Through complex information integration, the GIS software should be used to analyze the melting of the polar ice caps to increase the current knowledge of the issue and to help provide a plan of attack for reduce the negative impact that this problem has on the global environment.

First of all, it is important to discuss the exact capabilities of the GIS software in order to have a clearer understanding of what can be accomplished and how the data can be used for further research.  “A geographic information system (GIS) integrates hardware, software, and data for capturing, managing, analyzing, and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information” (GIS.com).  The GIS capabilities allow scientists or all backgrounds to visualize data in order to see past and future trends associated with geographic information.  “GIS allows us to view, understand, question, interpret, and visualize data in many ways that reveal relationships, patterns, and trends in the form of maps, globes, reports, and charts” (GIS.com).  Without this type of information, the amount of research and the quality of research that can be produced is very limited.  Usually, the GIS capabilities are associated with a map, which is only one type of product that can be produced by the GIS software and hardware.  “A GIS can provide a great deal more problem-solving capabilities than using a simple mapping program or adding data to an online mapping tool” (GIS.com).

The GIS results can be viewed in three ways: the database view, the map view, and the model view.  Through the database view, the GIS can act as a geographic database, known as a geodatabase, and it functions as a structured database that described the world in geographic terminology.  The map view exists in that the GIS is a set of intelligent maps that show features and relationships on the earth’s surface.  Essentially, the maps serve as a type of window into the database and helps support image functions that concentrate on calculating queries, analysis and editing of the information for present and future use.  Finally, the model view enables the GIS to act as a set of information transformation tools that can create new geographic datasets from pre-existing datasets on any number of topics.  This helps researchers properly predict and hypothesize future events and changes in the geographic information by applying analytic functions and pre-existed datasets to write results into the new datasets.  Through these three types of views, the GIS software is able to provide much information for properly analyzing the extent of the issue surrounding melting polar ice caps, especially as it pertains to the map view of the GIS software.

The melting of the polar ice caps is a complex issue that is still in its infancy.  It originally received much of its promotion in the late 1990s from Al Gore in the United States political arenas.  Some scientists believe that the Earth is going through a natural cycle and the ecosystems have alternated throughout history between very cold period, like the Ice Age, and much warmer periods (“The big melt” 1).  However, such information shared by scientists and politicians like Al Gore argues that the human civilization is partly to blame for the melting ice caps because carbon dioxide is released every time fossil fuels are burnt or natural gas is used to allow functionality for automobiles, trains, power plants, and much more (“The big melt” 1).  This problem has most commonly been referred to as the greenhouse effect, and it translates into a possible worldwide flooding before the end of the 21st century.  Prior to this global flooding of civilization, climate scientists believe that global warming and the greenhouse effect will increase severe drought and major flooding is different regions of the world; whereby, the effects would be unparalleled to anything previously seen in the world’s history.

In addition to the greenhouse effect, other scientists have a much different proposal of the problems associated with the melting of the polar ice caps.  For instance, one study focused on explaining the overall effect of polar and glacial melting argued that it had an overall negative impact on the weight distribution of the Earth that could change the Earth’s rotation over time.  The argument stated that as the polar ice caps shrank through the process of melting, the weight distribution of the Earth would change and could ultimately alter the degree and speed of rotation that the Earth would experience (Nakada 132).  Besides a simple change in the length of a typical calendar year, many cultures would experience prolonged summers or prolonged and very extreme winters like never before.  This problem shows another important issue associated with the dangers of melting polar ice caps that must be addressed in order for the current lifestyle and cultural activities to remain as they are today.  If this issue is not addressed properly through the use of political and scientific research, the global environment may experience extremely dangerous conditions within the time period of the next 100 years.  For this reason, scientists and politicians are working to spread the word and promote plans to reduce the use of natural gas and the burning of fossil fuels.  In order to support this information for such plans, the use of GIS software can be utilized to show previous historical maps of polar ice cap geography and help predict the future of the issue to help explain the urgency of finding a solution for the problem.

As previously stated, the bulk of the benefits of GIS software is to provide a mapping image of previous and future trends in geographic change.  As it pertains to the issue of melting polar ice caps, GIS software is able to view mapping data and create geodatabases for the information taken from the images.  Image 1 is a clear example of such a GIS mapping tool that can be used to show changes in the trend of geographic movements.  As Image 1 shows, there has been a quite extensive change in the reduction and retreat of ice outside of Barrow, Alaska between July 2006 and July 2007 (Goldenberg).  As very little data shows the placement of the retreated ice, many scientists and researchers believe that the ice has melted over one calendar year.  The GIS software would be able to take the information provided on any increase in water levels within the nearby seas and large bodies of water in order to properly analyze the validity of this claim.  Just as the information can be provided to show the change in trends of time from past to future, so too can the GIS software be used to show data mapping of geographic location of polar ice caps as far back as 10-20 years or more.  With this information, scientists can surely explain the full extent of the problem and analyze the potential consequences of the melting ice caps within the next 50-100 years if melting continues at the current rate.  Furthermore, the validity of the GIS mapping software validates the arguments for the greenhouse effect and global warming and contradicts any naysayers that have been in opposition to the scientific claims of such research in the past.

Due to the extent of the problems surrounding the melting polar ice caps, many political organizations around the world have begun to develop an accumulation database of current geographic locations and statistics for current glaciers and polar ice caps globally.  As it has been clearly explained, the GIS software mapping tool can take such geodatabases and provide mapping images of current, previous and future trends in the change of polar ice caps.  This information can be used to properly monitor the melting rate of ice caps and adjust predictions based on any change in socioeconomic and environmental lifestyle alterations around the world.  The problem clearly cannot be solved overnight, but it is important for tools such as the GIS software to be utilized to help show validity to the argument and explain the extremity of the problem surrounding global warming.  The multitude of information that can be used by GIS software is only beginning to scratch the surface.  As more technology continues to evolve, the issue may actually be able to be properly addressed within the near future before it is too late.

Works Cited

“The big melt. (Cover story).” Current Events 99.2 (1999): 1. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 10 Nov. 2009.

GIS.com. “What Is GIS?” GIS.com – the Guide to Geographic Information Systems. Web. 10 Nov. 2009. <http://www.gis.com/whatisgis/index.html>.

Goldenberg, Suzanne, and Damien Carrington. “Revealed: the secret evidence of global warming Bush tried to hide: Photos from US spy satellites declassified by the Obama White House provide the first graphic images of how the polar ice sheets are retreating in the summer. The effects on the world’s weather, environments and wildlife could be devastating.” The Observer. 26 July 2009. Web. 07 Nov. 2009. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/jul/26/climate-change-obama-administration#>.

Nakada, Masao, and Jun’ichi Okuno “Perturbations of the Earth’s rotation and their implications for the present-day mass balance of both polar ice caps.” Geophysical Journal International 152.1 (2003): 124. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 07 Nov. 2009.

UNEP – United Nations Environment Program. “Global distribution of glaciers and ice caps.” Global glacial changes: facts and figures. Web. 07 Nov. 2009. <http://www.grid.unep.ch/glaciers/pdfs/3.pdf>.

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