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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.

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Thin Ice: Melting Greenland Might Be Set for a Mining Boom

The vast island is nearly pristine, but not for long.


These NASA maps show how, within the space of four days earlier this month, Greenland's vast ice sheet faced degree of melting not seen in three decades of satellite observations as temperatures there rose. The image at left shows the ice sheet on July 8, with a large part of it experiencing no melting in summer, as is typical. By July 12, the surface of virtually the entire ice sheet was melting, a phenomenon not seen in three decades of satellite imaging. (NASA)

Last week we had big climate change news out of Greenland (well, sort of) with a NASA report that shows that the entire ice sheet that covers the vast majority of the country dramatically melted in mid July. On the heels of the news that an iceberg twice the size of the island of Manhattan had calved from Greenland as well, the doomsday talk was reaching fever pitch.

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Strange and Dramatic Thaw in Greenland May Be Cyclical

Take those breathless blog posts with a grain of science.

These NASA maps show how, within the space of four days earlier this month, Greenland's vast ice sheet faced degree of melting not seen in three decades of satellite observations as temperatures there rose. The image at left shows the ice sheet on July 8, with a large part of it experiencing no melting in summer, as is typical. By July 12, the surface of virtually the entire ice sheet was melting, a phenomenon not seen in three decades of satellite imaging. (NASA)

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On Friday, the Petermann glacier in far northern Greenland calved a massive iceberg four times the size of Manhattan. That's 97 square miles worth of ice, at "a thickness up to half the height of the Empire State Building."

"The freshwater stored in this ice island could keep the Delaware or Hudson rivers flowing for more than two years. It could also keep all U.S. public tap water flowing for 120 days," University of Delaware ocean science professor Andreas Muenchow told the college paper.

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