Department of Corrections: The great Greenland ice melt

Updated
 
Department of Corrections: The great Greenland ice melt
Department of Corrections: The great Greenland ice melt

We got mail today from a climate scientist and oceanographer, correcting our segment about Greenland’s ice sheet (video). Rebecca Dell writes:

On yesterday’s show, you put up a couple maps showing Greenland ice melt, including one where almost the entire island was red, and said that “Greenland’s ice sheet is all but gone.” I want your audience to know that the entire Greenland ice sheet has not melted. The red color on the map indicates that the surface of the ice sheet has melted, a thin layer of water at the top, but there is still a huge amount of ice underneath. In the center of Greenland, the ice is 2 miles thick, and almost all of that ice is still there.

This story is still important news. In most summers, we see surface melt around the edges of Greenland, but very little melting in the center.

This extent of melting is unprecedented in the 30-or-so years in which we have good observations from satellites. However, glaciologists think that even in a world with severe climate change it would take a couple centuries for the whole two-mile-thick ice sheet to melt. That ice sheet stores enough water to raise global sea level by 20 feet, so even if only part of it melted, that would still be a disaster. Since that risk is so severe, and since it gets a fair amount of attention in the press, it’s important not to confuse people by implying that the whole ice sheet can somehow come and go in a matter of days.

On the plus side, Rebecca has agreed to be our in-house climate scientist and oceanographer, to go along with our in-house astrophysicist. Get your own.

Thanks also to @BradWeikel, who corrected us on the twitters. We are so corrected.

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Department of Corrections: The great Greenland ice melt

Updated