Friday, August 11, 2006

The Science of Global Warming: Oops, There Goes Another Ice Sheet....

Science has published a study by Chen indicating that the Greenland ice sheet is melting and sliding faster than previously thought -- and the rate may be accelerating.  Chen measured Greenland's ice sheet mass with NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite data between April 2002 and November 2005.  The ice melt rate had tripled compared to the rate other scientists had calculated from data collected by Earth-observing satellites between 1997 and 2003.  As Science explained:

Something ominous may be happening beneath Greenland's vast ice sheet. For nearly 50 years, the world's second largest ice cap has inched inexorably downhill toward the ocean, but at a stable rate. Now, the sheet seems to be melting and sliding seaward much faster, and the rate seems to be accelerating--a condition that could eventually endanger coastal populations and affect Earth's climate.


When glaciers begin to melt, water works its way down to the bottom of the ice. There it lubricates the glacier, which will pick up its downhill pace. Why worry? Greenland holds about 10% of the world's ice, so if it melts completely--though an unlikely prospect--it would raise global sea level about 6.5 meters. That's enough to flood all of the planet's coastal cities and displace billions of people.

Air Quality, Climate Change, Energy, International, North America, Physical Science, Sustainability | Permalink

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