Friday, December 9, 2005

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Greenland glacier races to ocean

The glaciers in greenland are melting at an alarmingly high rate: Greenland glacier races to ocean (By Jonathan Amos, BBC News science reporter, San Francisco)

The story the article presents is about measurements of the melting rate of glaciers in Greenland. They're melting very rapidly, with the Kangerdlugssuaq Glacier retreating 5 kilometers up its fjord just this year.

"We've seen a 5km retreat of the terminus, we've see an almost 300% acceleration in the flow speed and we've seen about a 100m thinning of the glacier - all occurring in the last one or so years," said Dr Gordon Hamilton, of the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine.

"These are very dramatic changes." And they are not confined to Kangerdlugssuaq.

A couple weeks ago I flew over Greenland and was able to see a little bit of the place. I was in a 747 flying from London to Seattle, and only had a few moments as I got up to go to the bathroom. It looked very ice covered just about what I'd expect, and what they're talking about are measurements made over long periods of time.

Elsewhere I've seen discussion that as the ice covered areas in the north melt, it's going to expose more of the underlying rock. As it's exposed it's going to hold heat longer into the year, and lead to an accelerated warming. If that model is true we could see quick change of the arctic from ice covered to being seasonally covered with ice.

And, of course, one wonders what will happen to that ice as it melts. The story is it will go into the ocean, raising ocean levels. Seeing as I live at sea level perhaps I ought to consider moving?