"Frozen fresh water is bound in the form of millions of cubic metres of ice in Greenland."

Global warming and Greenland

Climate change and global warming are hot topics of discussion all over the world. These discussions are particularly relevant in relation to Greenland as the ice sheet is often mentioned in connection with the debates on increases in global temperature.

Frozen fresh water is bound in the form of millions of cubic metres of ice in Greenland, and overall the country contains 10 per cent of the world's total reserves of fresh water.

Emission of greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide

The crucial question in the debate about the climate is whether the increasing temperatures are a natural phenomenon or caused by man; in other words, whether the manmade emission of greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide has the effect of increasing the global temperature or not.

Today even more and more climate sceptics no longer doubt that man plays a role in global warming. So far more than 192 countries have signed the UN's Kyoto Protocol which aims to reduce the industrial emission of carbon dioxide, which is suspected of increasing the rate of global warming.

"Today even more and more climate sceptics no longer doubt that man plays a role in global warming."

East Greenlanders see less ice from the Arctic Ocean than earlier."

The melting Greenlandic ice

If temperatures continue to rise, it is natural to ask how much the planet's ice masses will be affected. Sealers and whalers at Qaanaaq say that the sea ice is 1 metre (3 feet) thinner today than it was earlier.

East Greenlanders see less ice from the Arctic Ocean than earlier, and both scientists as well as tourist guides report that in certain areas of the country glacier heads are pulling back year after year.

This applies not least to the UNESCO-protected ice fjord near Ilulissat, which has pulled back almost 10 km (6 miles) between 2001 and 2004.

Whether more ice is melting than new ice is being created is the question on which science is concentrating on finding an answer to at the present time.

 

Arctic freshwater reserves at risk

But recent studies suggest that the balance is negative; Greenland is loosing more ice than it is gaining in other words.

Both scientists and non-specialists are focusing their attention on the 2.85 million km3 (100.600.000.000 million of cubic feet) ice sheet, which in the long term is in danger of melting as a result of continued increases in temperature.

If this happens, the world's oceans will rise by 6-7 metres (20-23 feet). The horizon for such a scenario is a few hundred or a few thousand years, depending on which researcher you ask.

"If this happens, the world's oceans will rise by 6-7 metres."

"New ice will continue to be created on the ice sheet."

Still lots of ice to see

While doubt still prevails as to the speed at which the volume of the ice is declining and the complex relationships between causes of temperature increases, there is one thing that is certain:

New ice will continue to be created on the ice sheet and there will still be enormous amounts of ice to admire in Greenland for the next many generations. It is just a question of how much...

INFOGRAPHIC ON CLIMATE CHANGE

Global warming and the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet have a long line of consequences for people, nature and wildlife in the Arctic and the rest of the world. This infographic shows some of these consequences. It may be downloaded and used as you wish.