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Greenland in danger! NASA scientists fly over massive island to track melting ice

New Delhi , News Nation Bureau | Updated : 15 August 2019, 10:59 PM
Sled dogs are seen running through water where ice used to be in Greenland (Photo Courtesy: Steffen Olsen)
Sled dogs are seen running through water where ice used to be in Greenland (Photo Courtesy: Steffen Olsen)

Amid concerning temperature data from Greenland, there are reports that a group of NASA scientists are crisscrossing the massive island on a mission to track its melting ice. Greenland has been melting faster in the last decade and this summer, it has seen two of the biggest melts on record since 2012.

In early June, a study led by a group of US researchers found that Greenland, which has been witnessing a rapid rise in temperature, might be ice-free by the end of this century. The island could lose 4.5 per cent of its ice, contributing up to 13 inches of sea level rise, as the sudden change in weather led to early arrival of annual ice melt.

The research has been conducted on the basis of new data on the landscape under the ice today in a bid to make breakthroughs in modelling the future. Scientists also used data from a NASA airborne science campaign called 'Operation Ice Bridge'.

Steffen Olsen, of the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI), also captured an image that depicts the awful reality of melting ice in Greenland. Olsen described it as "rapid melt".

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Greenland's ice sheet is huge, spanning over 660,000 square miles. Today, the ice sheet covers 81 per cent of Greenland and contains eight of Earth's fresh water bodies. On average, Greenland's ice sheet is 1.6 miles thick, but there is a lot of variation depending on where you measure.

Between 1991 and 2015, Greenland's ice sheet has added about 0.02 inches per year to sea level, but that could rapidly increase. The communities in Greenland relied heavily on the sea ice to survive for transport, hunting and fishing.

Meanwhile, satellite images also reveal that Greenland is not the only area seeing unheard-of melting. The Himalayas are now melting twice as fast as they used to. The Asian mountain range, which includes Mount Everest, has been losing ice at a rate of about one per cent a year since 2000, according to a study in the journal Science Advances.

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While Global warming is considered to be the chief culprit, scientists want to know how this is happening. Both warmer air and warmer water are eating away at Greenland, causing it to lose billions of tons of ice daily in the summer.

A team of scientists and engineers aboard a research plane this week are dropping probes into the ice to help figure out which is the bigger cause. If water is playing a bigger role than scientists had thought, that could mean seas will be rising faster than expected.

First Published: Thursday, August 15, 2019 10:51 PM
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