Saving Greenland could save the world

Popular Science | 6/11/2019 | Staff
normanorma (Posted by) Level 4
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In sum, the ice surface is beset by a variety of forces brought on by changing climates. The surface is getting darker, for instance, thanks to a combination of industrial soot, dust, microorganisms, and algae, which have settled upon a “dark zone” on the ice sheet’s western region. This dust, black carbon, and biological life now form an ecosystem that flourishes during the warmer months. But the danger is that the darker Greenland’s ice gets, the more solar energy it absorbs. And the more solar energy it absorbs, the more it melts and the darker it gets. This feedback loop is known by glaciologists as the albedo-melt loop (albedo is a measure of surface reflectivity). And unfortunately, it is reinforced by another self-perpetuating process. As Greenland’s ice sheet melts and drops in elevation, just as it has at Koni Steffen’s Swiss Camp, its ice becomes more vulnerable. Lower altitudes enjoy warmer temperatures; they allow lakes to creep farther up the ice sheet with each passing decade. Therefore it now appears that the more Greenland melts, the more Greenland melts.

At its current pace of erosion, Greenland’s ice sheet adds about one millimeter of water every year to the world’s oceans; at this rate, the ice sheet could last seven thousand years. Yet no glaciologist in the world seems to think this will be the case. An astonishing study published in December 2018 concluded that the ice sheet was now melting faster than at any time for at least the past 350 years, and that the “nonlinear” response of the ice to warmer temperatures would lead to “rapid in- creases” in Greenland’s sea-level contributions. With its mellifluous, singsong Swiss accent, Koni Steffen’s voice tends to soften the bleakness of his outlook. Yet in his reflective moments, he predicts the melting ice over...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Popular Science
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