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Greenland’s thinning ice sheet could be saved by snow

21.12.2004


A study conducted by an expert at the University of Sheffield and officials at NASA has found that while Greenland’s ice is certainly thinning, snowfall in some areas is increasing, with levels in south-east Greenland in the past year being three times higher than is usual. This opens debate as to how global warming will affect Greenland’s ice sheet and could mean that it remains stable, as thinning ice is offset by increased snowfall, which will replace the melted ice.



Edward Hanna, from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Geography explains, “Our study involved using airborne laser surveys to measure the height of the ice in Greenland. We found that ice is thinning at an extremely rapid rate along the margins, meaning that Greenland’s contribution to global sea level rise has almost doubled since the mid 90s.

“In contrast to this, ice in South East Greenland has actually thickened by a metre between 2002 and 2003, reversing the thinning of between 10cm and 40cm a year which had been occurring there in the mid 90s. This sudden thickening was due to unusually high levels of snowfall between 2002 and 2003. Usually this area would experience about a metre of snow per year, but in this period 3m of snow fell, which is the highest rate in more than 45 years of meteorological data.


“These findings add to the current debate over how global warming will affect ice in Greenland. Warm air holds more water than cold air, so global warming means we may have a wetter climate. Storm tracks could move further north, with more snow falling on Greenland. This snowfall could offset the melting that is taking place on other parts of the ice sheet.”

| alfa
Further information:
http://www.shef.ac.uk

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