Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Greenland Was Once Ice Free-And Could Be Again

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Greenland Was Once Ice Free-And Could Be Again

Article excerpt

Rare isotopes left in bedrock below Greenland's ice sheet more than a million years ago are evidence that the ice sheet once disappeared and could disappear again, which would wreak havoc on coastal regions worldwide, said a research team, which included Marc Caffee, a professor of physics and astronomy at Purdue University. Caffee used a gas-filled magnet to find the isotopes.

For a long while, more than a million years ago, Greenland wasn't covered in ice, scientists at Purdue University said. That may not seem like big news, except for this: The Greenland ice sheet is the second largest ice cube on the planet after the Antarctic ice sheet. If the Greenland ice sheet were to melt, then it's also possible that the planet's oceans might rapidly rise five or six meters, or more than 20 feet, and wreak havoc on coastal cities worldwide.

Before now, scientists didn't know whether Greenland's ice sheet was so stable that it would just weather any climate changes, or if there were ever a period in which Greenland was, if not verdant, at least a bit rocky.

It turns out there was, in fact, a time when it was largely ice-free, perhaps for as long as 250,000 years, more than a million years ago.

Scientists could determine this because the bare rock during that time was exposed to cosmic rays in the atmosphere.

"We now have pretty conclusive evidence that for a time that ice wasn't there," Caffee said. …

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