Greenland – an island more than three times the size of Texas – is largely covered by a massive sheet of ice. It’s more than a mile thick in most places.
But as the climate warms, the Greenland ice sheet is starting to melt faster than it can be replenished by wintertime snow.
Twila Moon is a research scientist at the Colorado-based National Snow and Ice Data Center.
“We’re seeing more and more consistently years of very high ice loss, something really that humanity has never seen before,” she says.
And the trend could continue. In a recent study, researchers at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, studied what will happen if carbon pollution continues to increase over this century.
They found that within 1,000 years, the entire ice sheet would likely melt, causing seas to rise between 17 and 23 feet.
But Moon says the world can avoid that future.
“The difference between following a very aggressive path of action in reducing greenhouse gas emissions versus what we’re doing today is quite truly the difference between losing all of the Greenland ice sheet or keeping the vast majority of it. That’s all just a matter of human action,” she says. “What we do will be the primary determinant of what things look like in the future.”
Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.