NASA: Greenland Ice Cap Is Melting

Michael Johnsen

July 20, 2000

In a report released in the July 21, 2000 issue of Science, NASA reveals research which indicates the ice cap covering much of Greenland is rapidly receeding. The report also shows indications that enough water is being released to rasie sea levels. After Antarctica, Greenland's ice cap, which covers 85% of Greenland, contains the second largest amount of freshwater in the world. The Arctic island loosing about 50 billion gallons (227 billion liters) of ice each year, which can cause a measurable rise in sea levels. Currently, enough water is lost from the ice sheet each year to raise sea levels by about 0.13 millimeters per year.

If the rate of melting continues for the next 50 years, enough water to raise the sea level by one centimeter would be released NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, which coordinated the study research. Scientists used lasers to conduct ariel measurements of the ice cap over Greenland in 1993, 1994, 1998 and 1999. Their research shows it is receeding around the edges at a rate of about one meter a year. If this rate were to increase, the results could be disasterous. CNN qoutes NASA researcher Waleed Abdalati: ""When you consider a flat beach, an inch in sea level rise covers a large horizontal distance," he said . "There are instances where there are large storm events because the water's closer to the land. So it's something to be studied. It's something to be considered."

The report does not discuss global climate change, but does address one argument some scientists have used to discredit the global warming theory- that the ice at the center of Greenland is becoming slightly thicker. Global warming skeptics would argue that this indicates growing ice, not receeding. But the NASA report links the thickening of ice in the center of the sheet is a progression of weather changes related to the loss of ice over the remainder of the island, but the report fails to finger global warming as the reason for the decline ice.

Scientists studying global climate systems worry that without the reflective ice sheets, sunlight normally bounced off the ice back into space will now be absorbed by the Earth, increasing the warming trend