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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Greenland, the De-icing Tour

Greenland, the De-icing Tour

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Thursday, April 14, 2016/Categories: natural history, sustainability, environment, climate change

   RMS Titanic and Iceberg south of Greenland as Conceived by Willy Stower, 1912  (credit: Public Domain)

Changes to Greenland's ice cap can now be observed in less than a week as Danish investigators have just observed. The researchers estimated that nearly 12% of Greenland’s ice sheet was melting on Apirl 12, 2016 (the graphc spike) exceeding, by nearly a month, the previous melt area record of 10% on May 5, 2010. The satellite data is compared to the mean temperatures recorded from 1990-2013. This rate of melting on the ice sheet is stunning and it is barely springtime in the Arctic.


                    Area of Greenland Ice Cap Melting, April 10-12, 2016  (credit: Danish Meteorological Institute)

This is not a singular report of extreme melting observed in the Arctic this year. A journalist, Robert Kunzig with the National Geographic Society, reported from Nordaustlandet Island in Norway's Svalbard archipelago,  some photographic melting evidence unfolding on the remote Arctic islands as well. His documentary focus was the physics of ice and why it shouldn't be ignored.


                              Northwest Passage Routes, mid-August 2008   (credit: European Space Agency)

For some people, changes in Arctic ice dynamics may not appear as a bad thing. Greenlanders, who import most of their food, may enjoy growing wheat and potatoes soon because of the rapidly warming climate. Also, the famous Northwest Passage from Europe to Asia, that alluded early explorers, is now open. A direct route is shown as an orange line in a 2008 satellite image while the dotted line, called the Amundsen Northwest Passage, is vitually passable now less than ten years later. A luxury cruise copmany, Crystal Cruises, is now offering a delux cruise through the Northwest Passage from Anckorage to New York City.  Assisted by the British Antarctic Survey from the UK, the tour boat will have the RRS Ernest Shackleton escort the Crystal Serenity on its 32-day maiden voyage in August, 2016. It will be an expensive, luxury voyage for those who can afford the passage.

It would be curious to know the sort of travel announcements that greeted passangers for the RMS Titanic or Earnst Shackleton's own Endurance explorers on launching their polar voyages. The Titanic passed south of Greenland while the Endurance went south to the Antarctic. Both ships experienced the physics of ice long before it became known.



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