Tuesday, September 01, 2009

We All Live on the Greenland Ice Sheet Now

By way of serendipitous happenstance, a couple of separate but related news nuggets jumped out at me as I surfed the net today. First, Bernie posted some links over at one of our other blogs (The Central Ganglion) on some climate change matters, particularly on the 10:10 Climate Change campaign, an effort to get everyone to reduce their carbons emissions by 10% in 2010. (More info here, and George Monbiot writes about it here.)
But Bernie also noted that the Greenland ice sheets are melting faster than most predictions. 10% of the world's fresh water is tied up in the Greenland ice sheets and that fresh water is moving into the Atlantic Ocean a lot faster than anyone has imagined. And that's bad news for the future.
According to an article in the Guardian, "Helheim, an enormous tower of ice that calves into Sermilik Fjord, used to move at 7km (4.4 miles) a year. In 2005, in less than a year, it speeded up to nearly 12km a year." Another glacier, Kangerdlugssuaq, is now moving 24mm (about an inch) every minute, making its movement visible to the naked eye. Where the glaciers meet the sea, the glacial calving events are now big enough to generate seismic events transmitted through the earth, and these events actually help speed up the glaciers. That's a feedback loop few people had ever thought of.
And while comptemplating that worrisome news, I found this story by Olaf Malver at The Adventure Corner reporting on his just completed kayaking trip to eastern Greenland. He describes passing 12 mile-long tabular icebergs the likes of which his 55 year-old Inuit guide has never seen before. These icebergs can only make their way south because so much of the Arctic Ocean has opened up during the summer. Olaf, who has camped along eastern Greenland for fifteen years, also noted that many of the fresh water pools at his favourite campsites have dried up, and he also comments on receding glaciers.
As the author of the Guardian article noted, "We all live on the Greenland ice sheet now. Its fate is our fate."

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