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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

"Like Butter" Melting

data from the Greenland ice melting is visualized

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Thursday, August 1, 2013/Categories: video, sustainability, environment

As the Arctic warms, what happens to the Greenland ice-cap is very important. Enough ice is contained in the island's glaciers that if the entire cap of ~700,000 square miles were to melt, it would lead to global sea level rise of nearly 25 feet. Florida, Bangladesh, and many other low coastal areas would be inundated.

New research from an oddly named program, Making Earth System Data Records for Use in Research Environments, shows that the interior regions of Greenland are flowing much faster than they were in the winter of 2000-2001. NASA satellite sensors have provided melting measurements from 2001-2011 that has now been assembled into a "big data" visualization.


The NASA team found that "melt water from the top of the glaciers carried heat downward and warmed the entire ice sheet, which then—like a stick of butter—softened, deformed, and flowed faster." According to  Thomas Phillips, lead author of a new scientific paper and an associate with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder commented:

"The findings have important ramifications for ice sheets and glaciers everywhere. It could imply that ice sheets can discharge ice into the ocean far more rapidly than currently estimated. It also means that the glaciers are not finished accelerating. As the area experiencing melt expands inland, the acceleration may be observed farther inland.”

melting like butter, indeed. Watch out New York, Dacca, and anywhere else along a low-lying coastline!

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