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[greenyes] Greenland Ice Sheet


THE SCOTSMANWed 4 Aug 2004

Scientists alarmed at increase in melt rate of ice

HAMISH MACDONELL


GREENLAND'S cover of ice is melting ten times quicker than previously
thought, an increase that could lead to floods across the world, scientists
have found.

Newly published research shows an alarming rise in the rate of collapse of
the massive Greenland ice-sheet as a result of global warming. Scientists
now believe the ice-sheet is shrinking at the rate of ten metres a year, not
the one metre previously thought.

If the entire ice-sheet melts, the resulting flood waters would raise the
level of global seas by seven metres, submerging large areas of land,
including sea-level cities such as London.

Greenland has the biggest ice-sheet in the northern hemisphere: almost
772,000 square miles of ice which is up to 1.9 miles thick, the base of
which is below sea level.

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Jonathan Gregory, of the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction, at the
University of Reading, along with colleagues from Brussels and Bremerhaven,
has also found that an average annual warming in the region of 2.7C would
mean that the rate of melting would outpace the annual snowfall.

The greater the warming, the faster the snow melts. The worst-case
predictions for Greenland, made by an inter-governmental panel of
scientists, now involve an average warming of 8C.

At those temperatures, oceans that have risen by 2.5mm (less than one-tenth
of an inch) a year will start to rise by a steady 7mm a year.

One medium-term side-effect of the destruction of the Greenland ice-sheet
could be the loss of the Gulf Stream, which keeps Europe warm and temperate.
The fresh water from the ice mixes with the salt water in the sea, altering
the salinity and changing the direction and behaviour of major currents.

The scientists on the Greenland survey admit they have no way of setting any
kind of timetable to a rise in water levels or forms of climate change, and
insist that further monitoring will have to take place over the next few
years to get a clearer picture. But they do admit that their findings are
worrying and suggest a much more serious picture for global sea levels than
had been available up until now.

It is likely to take hundreds of years for the entire ice-sheet to melt but,
as this year's survey has shown, if the speed of the destruction increases,
that timescale could be brought forward dramatically.


_________________________
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