Experts at NASA warn that the Greenland ice sheet is melting at a frightening rate.
The Greenland ice sheet is disappearing at an increasingly worrisome rate that, according to NASA experts and oceanographers. Subsequently, NASA has launched a sea and air-based mission to monitor the situation, called Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG).
Climate change, which is leading to climbing world temperatures, is causing the continental ice to melt. And the melt isn’t just being instigated by rising atmospheric temperatures. Experts have discovered that warmer undersea currents are melting the ice from underneath the sea.
NASA’s OMG mission
Josh Willis works as the Principal Investigator for the OMG mission. He explains that through both sea and aerial investigations they are researching the interactions between the ocean and the ice. The OMG team are measuring the amount of ice melt that is coming off the glaciers through the actions of the warmer sea waters.
A specialized aircraft called the Glacier and Ice Surface Topography Interferometer (GLISTIN) flies in circuits around Greenland annually, over a period of a few weeks. The technology aboard GLISTIN creates maps in high resolution which reveal the rate at which the glaciers are shrinking along the edges.
In addition, GLISTIN deposits hundreds of probes into the sea to record measurements such as salinity and temperature. According to Willis, the salt water is much heavier and warmer, and its rate of change can reveal the speed at which the melt is occurring.
The ships utilized by the OMG program send sonar signals to the ocean floor to ascertain the depth and shape changes that the warmer waters are making to the glaciers along the coast. Ala Khazender is a glaciologist who is working with OMG’s Operation IceBridge from the skies.
He and his team have been measuring the altering thickness of the glaciers which appear to be rapidly changing upstream. Between sea and air, OMG hopes to ascertain exactly how climate change is creating the ice sheet melt.
Sea-levels predicted to rise by six meters
OMG experts predict that if the entire ice sheet covering Greenland melts, sea levels will rise by six meters. These higher sea levels would see many capital cities of the world immersed in water. However, these experts also estimate that this sea-level rise could take several hundred years. The OMG team will continue to monitor the rapid melt rates up until 2020 to ascertain what steps we need to take to protect humanity in the face of frightening sea level rises.
Some scientists, however, urge us not to panic until the study is complete in a few years time. Lora Koenig, a glaciologist from Goddard, reported in 2012 that this melt could, in fact, be a regular 150-year event that we have been due to experience. According to Koenig, the last time Greenland experienced such a dramatic melt was in 1889, and ultimately the ice sheet restored itself to former levels, until recent times.