Earth's surface is about 71% water. Most of that water is in the oceans but up to 69% of all of earth's fresh water is locked in glaciers around the globe.
Many of those glaciers, especially in the arctic circle, have been melting or "retreating" rapidly since the mid 20th century due to increasing global air and ocean temperatures. In fact, the arctic circle is warming 2 to 3 times faster than the rest of the planet.
Recently, the Russian Navy discovered that that glacial melting has revealed several new island landmasses near the Vylki glacier off the coast of the Novaya Zemla archipelago. Some of these islands are as big as 10 football fields. They were first spotted via satellite in 2016 and are now officially charted.
A similar discovery was made in the Canadian Arctic in January.
The impacts of this rapid ice melt reach far and wide. Locally, rapid melting threatens the habitat of polar bears and many other species that call the huge masses of ice home.
Freshwater runoff from the melting glaciers ends up in Earth's oceans. That slowly but surely changes the salinity and acidity of the water. Changes could eventually become dramatic enough to shift global ocean currents due to changes in the density of the water. Also, countless marine species have evolved to thrive in current ocean acidity levels. If the ocean becomes too acidic, those species will be threatened.
Glacier runoff also contributes to rising sea levels. Scientists at NASA say that Earth's global average sea level is rising about an eighth of an inch per year. If all of the ice in Earth's glaciers were to melt, global sea level would rise over 200 feet.
To learn more about global and local impacts of climate change, check out Climate Minute.
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