Before Our Eyes: Melting of the Greenland ice sheet

I recently posted about what the Miami metro would look like with 6 feet of sea level rise. It’s not an encouraging picture for anyone with interest in high-value coastal real estate.

If the entire Greenland ice sheet were to melt (just Greenland, not including other melting going on in Antarctica and Alaska, for example), it would yield about 23 feet of sea level rise.

Ice sheets in Greenland, Alaska, and Antarctica are melting right now. You might imagine that looks like a dripping faucet. You might imagine it looks like many dripping faucets. You would be wrong.

It looks like this:

That’s a moulin (from a French word meaning, “mill”), a vertical chute through which melt water on the top of a glacier falls through the glacier to its base, lubricating the glacier’s movement at the base and speeding its descent to the sea.

That moulin is on Gilkey Galcier in Alaska. Similar scenes are also occurring on the Greenland ice sheet:

The Greenland ice sheet is dumping about 300 gigatons of ice into the ocean each year, according to NASA, making it the current largest source of sea-level rise from melting ice.

The good news is, this process is expected to take a few hundred years, and we have time to escape much of that fate. The bad news is, it’s a slow-developing disaster. The ice sheets melt at a rate much slower than the rate at which we’re emitting the CO2 that causes their melting. Every single moment, we are committing ourselves to more future melting, and more sea level rise. The time for doubt and denial is over.



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