Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Greenland ice sheet is melting!

A pair of NASA satellites which fly in formation studying slight variations in the earth's gravity have the ability to detect the amount of ice being lost in Greenland due to global warming. A recent article in an environmentalist blog opened this way:

"Scott Luthcke weighs Greenland — every 10 days. And the island has been losing weight, an average of 183 gigatons (or 200 cubic kilometers) — in ice — annually during the past six years. That’s one third the volume of water in Lake Erie every year. Greenland’s shrinking ice sheet offers some of the most powerful evidence of global warming...

The good news for Luthcke is that a separate team using an entirely different method has come up with measurements of Greenland’s melting ice that, he says, are almost identical to his GRACE data. The bad news, of course, is that both sets of measurements make it all the more certain that Greenland’s ice is melting faster than anyone expected."

Are you really scared yet? Are you ready to start climbing the nearest mountain to escape the rising waters?

The problem with this analysis is that it doesn't relate the amount of ice lost to the total amount of ice in Greenland. In other words, what percentage of Greenland's ice is being lost each year?

According to Willis Eschenbach, writing in the environmental blog Watts Up With That,

"Greenland is losing about 0.007% of its total mass every year … seven thousandths of one percent lost annually...

And if that terrifying rate of loss continues unabated, of course, it will all be gone in a mere 15,000 years."

If past cycles of glaciation continue into the future, in 15,000 years, the planet will be well into the next ice age, so we can rest easy knowing that Greenland will be covered with lots more ice, and so will Seattle and Chicago and New York City, not to mention Europe and Asia.

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