A stunning multimedia presentation by the New York Times documents field research in Greenland, aimed at understanding the hydrology of rivers that are hastening the melting of the ice sheet.
The research is “essential to understanding one of the most consequential impacts of global warming,” and “could yield groundbreaking information on the rate at which the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, one of the biggest and fastest-melting chunks of ice on earth, will drive up sea levels in the coming decades,” Davenport writes. “The full melting of Greenland’s ice sheet could increase sea levels by about 20 feet.”
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While scientists have used satellite images to track the impact of climate change on the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, and models to simulate ice loss, “they have little on-the-ground information and so have trouble predicting precisely how fast sea levels will rise,” the Times reports.
“We scientists love to sit at our computers and use climate models to make those predictions,” said Laurence C. Smith, head of the UCLA geography department, who led the research team in Greenland over the summer. “But to really know what’s happening, that kind of understanding can only come about through empirical measurements in the field.”
The research “could yield valuable information to help scientists figure out how rapidly sea levels will rise in the 21st century, and thus how people in coastal areas from New York to Bangladesh could plan for the change,” Davenport writes. “But the research is under increasing fire by some Republican leaders in Congress, who deny or question the scientific consensus that human activities contribute to climate change.”