What is under Greenland’s ice?


We have been watching surface melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet (see Greenland Ice Sheet Today) as one sign of climate change. Covering some 656,000 square miles and ranging from 1 to 2 miles thick, this mass of ice is often considered a bellwether for change in the Arctic. But there is still much to know about what goes on beneath its surface. Recently, scientists were surprised to find evidence of soil underneath the Greenland Ice Sheet. Why is it there? And what does it reveal about the history of the ice sheet? Continue reading

Can liquid water persist within an ice sheet?


Scientists have discovered a large aquifer, the size of Ireland, near the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet. “This was a big surprise,” said Jason Box, a researcher for the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, “because we were drilling before melt had begun.” So liquid water had to survive since at least the previous year. Such water storage within the ice had not been previously considered, not on this massive scale. How can a giant reservoir of water exist inside a frozen ice sheet? Continue reading

Are Greenland’s galloping glaciers slowing down?


One of the three major ice streams studied, the outlet of the Jakobshavn-Isbræ glacier produces about 10 percent of Greenland’s icebergs due to calving. Located in West Greenland, its icebergs float down the fjord, sometimes getting stuck in shallower waters for years. Though the glacier’s acceleration rate has fluctuated through the years, it is still a major contributor to Greenland’s ice loss. Courtesy Spencer Weart, flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/weartpix/4077525679/)

For the past decade, Greenland’s ice sheet has been losing its ice more rapidly, raising concerns about its contribution to sea level rise. A recent study, published in Nature, proposes that Greenland could slow its shedding of ice from its massive ice sheet into the ocean. “This doesn’t mean glacial recession and melting will slow,” said Faezeh M. Nick, a glaciologist from the University Centre in Svalbard in Norway. Nick’s study points out that the problem is not so straightforward. Continue reading

A greener Arctic

As higher temperatures create more temperate environments across parts of the Arctic, vegetation is creeping northward. Places like Denali National Park in Alaska may soon see forests encroaching on what are currently tundra biomes. Photo credit: Timothy Wildey (http://www.flickr.com/photos/timothywildey/4964905772/)

If gardening in icy Greenland sounds unbelievable, think again. A chef in Kangerlussuaq has started growing tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and even strawberries for his restaurant, and Greenland’s potato production doubled between 2008 and 2012. These agricultural feats would have been impossible only a hundred years ago. The Arctic has been warming over the past several decades at a rate twice as fast as the rest of the globe. As the region warms, several teams of scientists have been tracking changes in Arctic vegetation, trying to see if higher temperatures mean more green. Continue reading

Greenland Ice Sheet Today

Photograph of a large melt pond on the Greenland Ice Sheet

A large melt pond on the Greenland Ice Sheet, photographed in 2004. Although melt ponds are normal phenomena during the summer melt season, scientists are paying closer attention to their frequency, extent, and duration. Courtesy John Maurer.

As warming alters the Arctic landscape, people are paying more attention to the changes happening to the Greenland Ice Sheet. The ice is melting more rapidly than before, leaving us to wonder, what’s going on?

To help answer your questions about Greenland, NSIDC’s newest Web site, Greenland Ice Sheet Today, will feature the latest research and imagery that researchers are using to monitor the ice. Scientists are discovering that while the ice sheet is in no danger of instantly melting, it is not immune to the Arctic’s rising temperatures. Continue reading