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What Can This Insane 3D Map of Greenland Teach Us About Climate Change?

The Greenland Ice Sheet contains enough water to raise ocean levels by 20 feet, and it’s melting fast.

image via youtube screen capture

As the world looks ahead at a future where climate change may have catastrophic results for our planet and those of us still living on it (who knows, by then maybe we’ll have colonized the moon?) one team of researchers is looking back a few thousand years, and down a few thousand meters, instead. Specifically, they’re looking at—and through—the nearly three million cubic kilometers of frozen water that comprises the Greenland Ice Sheet, the second-largest ice body on the planet.


Using state-of-the-art ice penetrating radar equipment, researchers from the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets have created the first-ever comprehensive, three-dimensional map of the nearly two million square kilometer ice mass that covers up to 80 percent of Greenland. In the past, ice sheet mapping was done through a slow, labor-intensive process necessitating the drilling, removal, and analysis of physical ice core samples. By using high-powered radar, scientists were able to not only map deeper into the ice sheet, but across wider distance as well.

Researchers hope this new map will shed light on how the multiple layers that comprise the ice sheet were formed, and subsequently flow as new layers are formed on top of them. Of particular interest is the bottom-most layer of ice, which originated from an era with temperatures similar to those we experience today. Research indicates the ice sheet has steadily been losing mass over the last 20 years, and by better understanding how these layers exist and interact with one another, scientists can better predict how the ice sheet itself will react to the process of climate change. That’s something well worth knowing, considering the ice sheet contains enough frozen water to raise Earth’s ocean levels by 20 feet, a process that would have dramatic, and likely calamitous, impact on coastal (and soon-to-be coastal) cities.

image via youtube screen capture

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via Barry Schapiro / Twitter

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