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Greenland ice more resistant to climate change than feared, study shows

Friday, August 10, 2012 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: Greenland, climate change, ice melting

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(NaturalNews) The ice in Greenland appears to be less vulnerable than earlier believed to uncontrolled melting that some scientists and climatologists said would drive up sea levels and lead to a host of environmental issues, according to a new study that found a spike in loss of ice had declined.

Kurt Kjaer of the University of Copenhagen, lead author of the new study, said in a statement of findings recently in the journal Science that "it is too early to proclaim that the 'ice sheet's future doom'" due to climate change being imminent.

Researchers from the Netherlands, Britain and Denmark wrote that they examined aerial photos taken from aircraft which showed stark glacial thinning in northwest Greenland between 1985 and 1993. They also said another spike in loss of ice took place between 2005 and 2010.

A wash of warm air

From that data some scientists, environmentalists and climatologists had concluded that Greenland could be headed towards a perpetual, endless meltdown of its glacial ice - a phenomenon many experts have attributed to man-made global warming.

In fact, in the latter part of July, scientists at NASA recorded an unprecedented warming event in Greenland, where - over the span of just a few days - nearly the country's entire massive ice sheet began melting.

"You literally had this wave of warm air wash over the Greenland ice sheet and melt it," NASA ice scientist Tom Wagner told reporters in describing the phenomenon.

The ice melt area expanded from 40 percent to nearly 97 percent over the span of four days, said NASA scientists, adding that three separate satellites recorded the occurrence that they have yet to be able to explain.

"When we see melting in places that we haven't seen before, at least in a long period of time, it makes you sit up and ask what's happening?" said NASA chief scientist Waleed Abdalati.

Until then, scientists had only witnessed a 55 percent melt. Even Greenland's coldest region, which is also its highest, experienced melting; according to ice core readings, that hasn't happened since 1889 and only occurs about once every 150 years, The Associated Press reported.

Many scientists and environmentalists have, for years, believed that man-caused activities have contributed to global warming, a debate that has been given new life this summer as record heat blanketed - and continues to blanket - much of the nation.

NASA scientist James Hansen said earlier this month that the likelihood of such temperatures occurring from the 1950s through the 1980s was about 1 in 300, but that likelihood has increased to 1 in 10 today.

"This is not some scientific theory. We are now experiencing scientific fact," he told AP.

Still, the results of the recent study by Kjaer and his team appears to have at least muddled the debate, for they do not jibe with earlier projections that Greenland's ice caps - which would raise global sea levels by seven meters if all of it did melt - are on an unstoppable, man-caused course to extinction.

More droughts, heat waves coming?

"It starts and then it stops," Kjaer told Reuters in reference to the periods of ice loss. "This is a break from thinking that it is something that starts, accelerates and will consume Greenland all at once."

And, since the sudden melting phenomenon NASA witnessed last month, Greenland's ice seems to be freezing again.

That said, Kjaer noted in the study that the polar nation's ice sheet did not get bigger in the pause between the spurts of ice loss.

A panel of United Nations climate scientists still maintains that man-caused activities are creating warming conditions around the world. They say that's being caused mainly by the burning of fossil fuels, and that the activity will eventually lead to more flooding, rising seas, droughts and heat waves.

Sources:

http://www.reuters.com

http://www.usatoday.com

http://www.chicagotribune.com

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