Greenland blooms: why is it not good for the planet?

Greenland blooms: why is it not good for the planet?

Greenland blooms and greens, but it is not because of spring, but because of the ice on its plates that melts. “Where there was ice and snow before, there are now arid rocks, wetlands and areas of bushes,” say researchers from the University of Leeds (United Kingdom) in a study published this Tuesday. In recent years, the area lost in this country in the Arctic region represents 1.6% of the total ice and glacier cover on its borders.

According to data in researchers’ possession, in half a century, since the 1970s, the region has warmed at twice the global average rate. Between 2007 and 2012, the average annual temperature was 3 degrees compared to the average between 1979 and 2000. Greenland is the largest island in the world, with a size of around 2.1 million square kilometers, it has 57,000 inhabitants and the Much of its land is covered by ice and glaciers.

However, in the last 30 years, drop by drop, this surface has lost 28,707 square kilometers of the Greenland ice sheet and glaciers, according to a major analysis of historical satellite records. “By analyzing high-resolution satellite images, we have been able to produce a detailed record of the land cover changes that are occurring,” explains Jonathan Carrivick, an earth scientist at Leeds School of Environment and one of the authors of the study. .

Leeds University

A fusion that not only causes changes in the country itself, since the degradation of permafrost, a permanently frozen layer beneath the Earth’s surface, can – the authors say – have an impact on the infrastructure, buildings and communities that exist. on. But these changes are also felt thousands of kilometers from this Arctic island.

Ice loss affects Earth’s surface temperature due to albedo, which is a measure of how reflective a surface is. Snow and ice are good reflectors of the sun’s energy reaching the Earth’s surface and this helps keep the planet colder. As the ice retreats, it exposes bedrock that absorbs more solar energy, raising the temperature of the Earth’s surface. Additionally, as ice melts, the amount of water in lakes increases. Water absorbs more solar energy than snow and this also increases the temperature of the Earth’s surface. “This loss also contributes substantially to global sea level rise, a trend that poses significant challenges both now and in the future,” the University of Leeds researchers note.

AMOC Current

But this blossoming of Greenland not only changes its landscape and physiognomy, it also modifies underwater life. Last weekend, another study, in this case by researchers René M. van Westen, Henk A. Dijkstra and Michael Kliphuis, from the University of Utrecht (Netherlands) specialized in climatology and oceanography, suggested that the circulation of Atlantic Southern Overturning (AMOC) was close to collapse.

This important current serves as a flow to transport warm, salty water to the north of the ocean and colder water to the south. Its existence is considered essential to balance and temper temperatures, especially in northwest Europe, but its natural functioning is increasingly endangered as a result of climate change.

The liters that Greenland has lost from its ice and glaciers, scientists warn, is influencing the weakening of this current. Melting ice is pooling water in the northern Atlantic and slowing down the AMOC current. Now, new predictions suggest that the turning point could come in the coming decades.

If this current collapses, experts believe that in those countries overall temperatures would soon plummet between five and 15 degrees below current levels, and in certain places such as parts of Norway they could drop even more than 20 degrees. In addition, temperatures would also drop in areas of North America and Asia, while in the southern hemisphere they could increase even more; and there would be important changes in the behavior of rainfall in places like the Amazon, where dry and rainy seasons could be interchanged.

Increase in greenhouse gases

The loss of ice is not only visible from the most colorful satellites on the surface of Greenland. “Bare rocks” and “shrubs” have appeared in the West, Midwest and Southeast and the amount of vegetated land increased by 87,475 square kilometers, more than doubling during the study period. But it is not the only thing that has increased on the Arctic island.

The analysis shows that Greenland’s wetlands have almost quadrupled, especially in the east and northeast. Wetlands are a source of methane emissions.

In the article, the researchers noted that “the expansion of vegetation, especially in wetland areas, exacerbates the thawing of permafrost, the thickening of the active layer and, therefore, the emissions of greenhouse gases previously stored in these areas.” arctic soils.


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