Greenland photoResearch scientists provide insights on recent ‘unprecedented’ melting of Greenland’s interior ice sheet.

KANGERLUSSUAQ, GREENLAND — This month’s Yale Forum “This is Not Cool” video by independent videographer Peter Sinclair relates the story behind the accelerating melt of Greenland’s ice sheet, as Sinclair reports live from a recent “Dark Snow Project” research trip.

“Off the scale” and “a rate of retreat that I believe is unprecedented in terms of the last 10,000 years” are terms scientist Alun Hubbard, of Wales’ Aberstwyth University, uses to describe what he has personally witnessed in visits to Greenland dating back to 2007.

Penn State University climate scientist Richard Alley is quoted in the exclusive video cautioning that “the history of Greenland is very clear. When it’s warm, there’s no ice on Greenland; when it’s cold, there’s lots of ice on Greenland.”

Greenland is “very tightly tied to temperature, and if it gets too hot it goes away. And too hot is not very many degrees away from where we are now.”

Hubbard points to data demonstrating “a marked speed-up event” in melting of Greenland’s interior ice sheet since 2010…an area he says “did nothing before.” He says melting of the 1,500-meter thick interior ice over the past three or four summers has accelerated by 2 to 3 percent a year, moving more mass to lower elevations of the ice sheet.

“The Greenland ice sheet is deglaciating, it’s drawing down the interior of the ice sheet faster than the models assume at present, causing untold damage to the base of the ice sheet” in interior regions not susceptible to such water input over at least the past 10,000 years.

Climate scientist Jason Box of the Geological Society of Denmark and Greenland, lead on the “Dark Snow Project” research trip*, explains that the relatively warm water draining down into the ice “heats the ice sheet internally.”

That increase in melt water has “a softening effect” on the ice, he says.

“The ice sheet in its interior is accelerating, and the melt at the margin is enhanced. And I think that means this ice sheet is actively accelerating. And that’s a pretty serious problem for sea-level rise.”

* “Dark Snow Project research trip was underwritten through a web-based crowd-sourced funding initiative, which attracted, along with other sources and funding, a $25,000 grant from The Grantham Foundation for Protection of the Environment, which also supports the work of The Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media.

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