The Sugar Analogy

“So you want to understand what will happen as we lose the ice on Svalbard?” He took another swig of beer, then set his glass down on the table creating a new ring on the surface. “Imagine you have some ice cubes on the table. If you like, you can arrange the blocks across from each other so they make a valley. Then pour sugar on top of them. Make several mountains of sugar until you have a nice, white landscape of sugar mountains. Very pretty.” He rubbed his finger in the wet ring, erasing it. “Now, remove the ice cubes. What happens to those sugar mountains?”
My companion and I looked at each other. It was obvious. “They collapse.”
“Exactly. And that is what is happening here. As the glaciers and permafrost melt, the mountains become increasingly unstable. With more rain, we have increased risk of mudslides, rock slides, landslides. You know that tinkle tinkle sound you here when you go hiking in the valleys? That’s rocks tumbling down. A catastrophic landslide is just a matter of time. Anyone for another beer?”

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