Rare Burst of Melting Seen in Greenland’s Ice Sheet

Scientists in Greenland have reported that ice sheets in Greenland have melted at an abnormaly high rate from July 8th to July 12th.  Most summers in Greenland only about half of the ice sheet gets melted, but satellites deployed by NASA and India’s space research institute showed data that the “ice melt expanded from 40 percent of the ice sheet to 97 percent.”  Thomas L. Mote is a climate scientis who has been studying these ice changes in Greenland for 20 years.  Up until this data came out he had never seen such rapid change in the ice sheets.  “I started looking at the satellite imagery and saw something that was really unprecedented,” stated Mote.  While most would see this increased speed of ice sheet melting to be a threat, scientists who looked at the event in a more historical context viewed it as normal.  Lora Koenig, a glaciologist with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center studied ice core samples from the summit of Greenland’s ice sheet.  What she found spanned over 10,000 years of Greenland’s history and showed that large scale melting just like the most recent one has taken place about every 150 years.  The last massive ice melt occurred in 1889, which shows that Koenig’s research is correct.  These extreme melts are very significant because scientists have gathered that Greenland’s ice sheet is shrinking due to the warming of Earth’s oceans.  Although this can be seen as a huge problem,  events like this one can help to further increase the knowledge of scientists in the fields of climate change and earth systems.  “Even though this one event might be part of normal variation, it’s still a fantastic experiment for us so we can try to understand how the ice sheets are going to change,”  said Thomas P. Wagner, head of NASA’s cryosphere program.  Hopefully our newfound knowledge of events like this one can help us to prevent them from happening in the future.

Ben Roberts



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