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From above, Greenland's ice sheet looks like a vast field of brilliant white — for the most part. In the summer months, the western margin is shaded by a dark zone that seems to have gotten darker in recent years, threatening to speed up the rate of melting.
A new study offers an explanation for the phenomenon, putting the blame on impurities like carbon and ice-dwelling algae.
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The ice sheet covers more than 80 percent of Greenland's landmass —about 656,000 square miles (1.7 million square kilometers), an area three times the size of Texas, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. The ice is more than a mile thick on average, and it holds 8 percent of the world's fresh water, . If it melts completely, global sea levels would rise about 23 feet (7 meters), according to NASA.
Drone - Image - Aug - View - Tents
A drone captured this image on Aug. 5, 2014, showing an overhead view of the tents and scientific equipment used for the Dark Snow Project. The dark zone is particularly visible east of the melt stream near the camp.
Because of that disastrous prospect, scientists have been trying to understand why the shrinking of Greenland's ice sheet has been accelerating over the past few decades.
Blindingly - Snow - Ice - Reflectivity - Sun
Blindingly white snow and ice have high reflectivity, or albedo, meaning they reflect more of the sun's energy than they absorb. Dark patches and meltwater, however, absorb more energy and can induce a positive feedback that leads to even more melting in an ice sheet....
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