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Greenland Ice Melting Away

The Greenland ice sheet experienced record melting in September 2002, as did much of the Arctic. A comparison of images from 2001 through 2003 and 2004 shows the changes in Greenland’s ice sheet over the past few years.

In this image, the melt zone appears along the western edge of the ice. In this zone, water has saturated the ice, darkening its color from white to blue-gray. The colored lines indicate the approximate melt zone extents for June 2001 through June 2005. Between June 2001 and June 2003, the melt zone increased substantially, then shrank somewhat in June 2004. The melt zone for June 2005 appears roughly equivalent to that of June 2002, the same year that later set a record in Greenland Ice Sheet melting. These images show the Greenland Ice Sheet midway through the seasonal melt. Summer melting begins in late April and reaches its maximum in late August or early September.

As in previous years, blue melt ponds liberally dot the surface. Though they may look pretty, too many ponds spell trouble for the ice sheet. These ponds serve as reservoirs of water that can speed the ice’s journey to the sea. Melt water travels downward through the ice and once it reaches the bottom, it can loosen the bond between the ice and the underlying rock, quickening the ice flow. Photo Credit: NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team; and Robert Simmon, Earth Observatory

Breaking Earth News

Glaciers on Greenland, the world's most icy land mass, are now melting most quickly where they are in contact with surrounding ocean, while ice in the high centre remains intact, said Garry Clarke, a professor at the University of British Columbia in this western Canadian city.

But if global warming causes the freezing level to move higher, the loss of ice would be worse than Greenland experienced in previous interglacial pe
riods dating back hundreds of thousands of years.

"It would be the complete disappearance of the Greenland ice sheet," Clarke told a meeting of scientists and journalists. "We still don't know how quickly our rendezvous with this will occur."

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Photo Above: Greenland's ice cap is melting at a frighteningly fast rate.Chunks of ice regularly fall into the sea in Greenland, where ice is melting at a rate three times faster than it was only five years ago. (Science photo by J.A. Dowdeswell)
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