Energy

NY Times: Greenland Is Melting!

Greenland is melting due to global warming and will raise sea levels 20 feet, according to an in-depth The New York Times article.

The Times followed climate scientists on their quest to collect data from Greenland to help explain exactly what’s happening to the world’s second-largest ice sheet.

“For years, scientists have studied the impact of the planet’s warming on the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets,” the Times reported. “But while researchers have satellite images to track the icebergs that break off, and have created models to simulate the thawing, they have little on-the-ground information and so have trouble predicting precisely how fast sea levels will rise.”

“No one has ever collected a data set like this,” Asa Rennermalm, a geography professor at the Rutgers University Climate Institute, told the Times.

Interestingly enough, it’s unclear if the data gathered by the government-backed expedition found evidence to corroborate climate models predicting that Greenland’s melt could raise sea levels 20 feet. The findings from the data collected by the Greenland team have yet to be published.

As of right now, Greenland is accumulating above average levels of ice, according to the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI), which shows its ice sheet is adding nearly 200 gigatons of ice per day as winter approaches.

Surface Mass Budget of Greenland

Source: Danish Meteorological Institute

That’s slightly above ice mass accumulation during this time last year and well above the average for late October, according to DMI data. Greenland did experience above average melt for a brief period in July, but it was nowhere close to the huge losses experienced in 2011 and 2012.

“We scientists love to sit at our computers and use climate models to make those predictions,” Laurence Smith, a geographer at the University of California in Los Angeles and the leader of the Greenland expedition, told the Times. “But to really know what’s happening, that kind of understanding can only come about through empirical measurements in the field.”

The Times detailed the harsh conditions scientists operated under in Greenland, including how it got so cold researchers peed in water bottles so they didn’t have to go outside to urinate at night. Researchers were helicoptered onto the ice where scientists were hit by the “cold of the Greenland summer — the temperature ranged from 27 degrees below zero to a balmy 40 while they were there — a constant wind and the glare of the sun.”

The science blogger Steven Goddard (a pseudonym) criticized the Times article’s portrayal of Greenland as rapidly melting.

“The volume of the ice sheet is 3,000,000 cubic kilometers. Using the most aggressive claims, it would take 15,000 years for the ice sheet to melt,” Goddard wrote. “That accounts for a sea level rise of about one hundredth of an inch per year.”

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