The third big slab of ice on Earth is Greenland. It is often referred to as the ‘canary in the coal mine’, due to the sensitive nature of its ice sheets to changes in temperature.
Greenland’s Ice Sheet partially melts and then refreezes with winter snows each year. Warmer temperatures cause the ice sheet to melt and retreat at the edges. In the interior this warming creates more moisture in the air, which counter-intuitively leads to heavier snowfalls. The overall result is a loss of ice mass.
Greenland holds enough ice to raise sea levels by 7 meters if melted.
From the 1960s until the early 1990s the Greenland Ice Sheet mainly responded to local climate changes. Since then they have seen a shift and Greenland is now being clearly affected by Climate Change.
The summer of 2003 was very warm around the edges of the Greenland Ice Sheet. This resulted in the second-highest runoff ever measured. The summer of 2005 saw a record high melt. This record melt was broken in 2007.
It turns out that Greenland was so named by a Viking ‘Eric the Red’ who was trying to encourage settlers to move there with a clever marketing ploy. The Greenland ice sheet is between 400,000 and 800,000 years old.
The leading Greenland climate scientist, Dr Edward Hanna, said “Our work shows that global warming is beginning to take its toll on the Greenland Ice Sheet, which, as a relic feature of the last Ice Age, has already been living on borrowed time and seems now to be in unstoppable decline.
‘ The ‘canary in the coal mine’ is looking decidedly crook – it has dropped a few feathers and its song is a bit off key.
With the ten hottest years occurring in the past twelve years our challenge is: can we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in time to stop this rise in temperatures?
Will it really take the Greenland Ice Cap falling into the sea for us to start paying attention?
In September 2012 some 98% of the Greenland ice cap was melting according to satellite images.