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Name: David
Status: Student
Grade: 9-12
Location: WI
Country: United States
Date: May 2008

I am doing a project for my calculus class about exponential change, and I need information on how fast the ice caps are melting. Could someone give me like a percentage, or how quick they are melting per degree above a certain point?

Hi David,

Trying to fit something to an exponential model makes most sense if the underlying processes operate in a similar manner. Ice sheet melting rate is not a geometric process proportional to the ice sheet mass and has potential non-geometric feedbacks such as subsurface meltwater streams increasing slippage and glacial flow rates into the sea. You could certainly create a hypothetical geometric model for glacier melting, but whether that would come anything near actual trends would be a big question.

If you want something ecologically related with more predictably geometric change that you can fit to an exponential model, things like energy use or increasing population make more sense. Obviously these will also have non constant feedbacks as well, but at least things like population growth are strongly proportionally linked to current population. Things best fit to exponential models are measures that are a fairly consistently a larger or smaller proportion of the current state over time.

Don Yee

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