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Melting Greenland Ice Could Rise Ocean Levels Faster Than Thought

By M. Tedesco/CCNY for NASA ICE - https://www.flickr.com/photos/nasa_ice/7644648892, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33791388
Melting Greenland Ice Could Rise Ocean Levels Faster Than Thought
Christina Comben

According to a recent report by the BBC, scientists in Greenland are “very worried” about melting Greenland ice conditions on the ice sheet. In the worst case scenario, this could accelerate the rising of ocean levels faster than expected, placing many major cities at risk.

What Contributes to Melting Greenland Ice?

Contributing factors to melting Greenland ice include warmer weather conditions and a growing amount of algae that is darkening the surface of the ice sheet. The main problem is that the dark ice absorbs more solar radiation than white ice, causing it to warm up faster and melt away quicker.

At the moment, melting Greenland ice contributes to an annual rising of global sea levels of around 1 mm. But this increase in algae making the ice darker is a potentially huge problem.

Size of Ice Sheet in Question

We’re not talking about a large iceberg or a small land mass here. To give you an idea, Greenland presents the largest ice mass in the northern hemisphere, at about seven times the size of the UK. Its thickness is as much as 2 miles in places.

Melting Greenland ice could have catastrophic consequences the likes seen only in sensational movies like The Day After Tomorrow. If this ice sheet were to melt completely, sea levels globally would rise by as much as 20 feet.

This would have a major effect on low-lying areas in parts of Britain, Bangladesh, and even major cities as far apart as Miami and Shanghai.

Investigating Algae Growth

Algae forming on the ice sheet in Greenland is nothing new, in fact their presence was observed for the first time over 100 years ago. However, it is only fairly recently that they have begun to spread and change the color of the ice.

Researchers are currently looking into the possible impact of this on future melting Greenland ice. They will analyze data and run it through computer software to create projections.

Many scientists and researchers are concerned about the spread of algae not only in the colder areas of the ice sheet, but in the flat, interior areas that are subject to warmer temperatures and could melt faster and on a wider scale.

While white ice and snow reflect as much as 90 percent of solar radiation, the dark patches covered in algae only reflect around 35 percent on average, and only 1 percent in the darkest areas.

Professor Martyn Tranter of Bristol University, a leading researcher on the project, admitted:

“People are very worried about the possibility that the ice sheet might be melting faster and faster in the future. We suspect that in a warming climate these dark algae will grow larger and over larger parts of the Greenland ice sheet, and it might well be that they will cause more melting and an acceleration of sea level rise.”

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