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Published On: Thu, Dec 8th, 2016

Global Warming hysteria: Greenland ice may melt, seas may rise, even though the region has been ice-free

For a long while, more than a million years ago, Greenland wasn’t covered in ice, scientists announced this week.

That may not seem like the biggest news in science, except for this: The Greenland ice sheet is the second largest ice cube on the planet, after the Antarctic ice sheet. If the Greenland ice sheet were to melt – if it is even possible for the ice sheet to melt – then it’s also possible that the planet’s oceans might rapidly rise five or six meters, or more than twenty feet, and wreak havoc on coastal cities worldwide.

Before now, scientists didn’t know whether Greenland’s ice sheet was so stable that it would just weather any climate changes, or if there were ever a period in which Greenland was, if not verdant, at least a bit rocky.

It turns out there was, in fact, a time when it was largely ice-free, perhaps for as long as 250,000 years, more than a million years ago.

Photo from 2012 - note Greenland is still there and the seas haven't risen...yet Extent of surface melt over Greenland’s ice sheet on July 8 (left) and July 12 (right). Measurements from three satellites showed that in just a few days, the melting had dramatically accelerated and an estimated 97 percent of the ice sheet surface had thawed by July 12. (Nicolo E. DiGirolamo, SSAI/NASA GSFC, and Jesse Allen, NASA Earth Observatory)

Photo from 2012 – note Greenland is still there and the seas haven’t risen…yet
Extent of surface melt over Greenland’s ice sheet on July 8 (left) and July 12 (right). Measurements from three satellites showed that in just a few days, the melting had dramatically accelerated and an estimated 97 percent of the ice sheet surface had thawed by July 12. (Nicolo E. DiGirolamo, SSAI/NASA GSFC, and Jesse Allen, NASA Earth Observatory)

Scientists were able to determine this because the bare rock during that time was exposed to cosmic rays in the atmosphere, says Marc Caffee, professor of physics and astronomy at Purdue University.

“We now have pretty conclusive evidence that for a time that ice wasn’t there,” Caffee says. “That’s big. That’s new. It’s probably not much different in temperature now than it was then, so we shouldn’t count on that ice sheet never melting again.”

Caffee’s lab, the Purdue Rare Isotope Measurement (PRIME) Laboratory, was able to determine that the bedrock of Greenland had been exposed to the atmosphere and cosmic rays from outer space by looking at rock samples that had been recovered by a U.S. scientific team from beneath nearly two miles of ice in 1993.

It was only in the past year that Purdue’s PRIME lab developed techniques using a gas-filled magnet attached to a particle accelerator that was sensitive enough to detect the beryllium-10 and aluminum-26 atomic isotopes. These isotopes had been created by the cosmic rays striking the rock and had been hiding beneath the ice for more than a million years.

The results of all of this scientific sleuthing were published in this week’s Nature.

The lead author on the Nature paper, Joerg Schaefer, a paleoclimatologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, says it’s possible that the Greenland ice sheet could go away again.

“Unfortunately, this makes the Greenland ice sheet look highly unstable,” he said in a Columbia University news release. “With human-induced warming now well underway, loss of the Greenland ice has roughly doubled since the 1990s; during the last four years by some estimates, it shed more than a trillion tons [of ice].”

Additional authors on the paper include Richard Alley, Pennsylvania State University; Nicolas Young and Roseanne Schwartz, Columbia University; Greg Balco, the University of California-Berkeley; Jason Briner, University of Buffalo; and Anthony Gow, U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory.

Writer: Steve Tally, [email protected], @sciencewriter

Response: The global warming hysteria is so tired and distracts from the true focus of environmental preservation and stewardship. Sure it’s “possible that the planet’s oceans might rapidly rise five or six meters, or more than twenty feet, and wreak havoc on coastal cities worldwide” just as it’s more likely that will NOT happen. In fact, reports like this point to less dramatic consequences and outcomes than those perpetuated by the fearmongering. — BBJ, The Dispatch

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