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Greenland's Icy History Plays Huge Role in Climate Change Survival, Country Once Ice-Free for 280,000 Years

Dec 09, 2016 10:13 AM EST

The mystery behind Greenland's icy history, where it was ice-free for 280,000 years, could help in research for climate change survival. However, mapping the history of the ice growth and shrinkage proves to be a remarkably difficult task. While researchers are digging deeper into the past, the ice narrative is becoming even more tangled.

Two studies have been published in Nature which illustrate the complex issues scientists have to face when studying changes in the ice sheet of Greenland. Joerg Schaefer, one of the study leads, found that Greenland was ice-free for an extended period of time for the last 2.6 million years.

On the other hand, the study led by Paul Bierman states that the ice sheet in East Greenland had been stable for the past 7.5 million years. With the face values from both studies, this would have been best suited for a debate with such contrasting finds.

Despite the difference in the studies, both studies would aim to help understand how the ice sheet in Greenland has functioned in the past. Doing so would help researchers understand its behavior in the future, especially with the warming weather.

"We're facing a climate that you can deny all you want, but the data shows it is getting warmer. There is zero debate in the scientific community that if it's going to get warmer, Greenland is going to melt. And sitting in Greenland are the equivalent of seven meters (23 feet) of sea level rise," stated Bierman, adding, "I don't think this is a trivial problem by any means. We need to understand how the Greenland ice sheet functions over time because it is the best way we're going to figure out what's going to happen in the future as we tweak our climate."

Schaefer agrees on Beirman n this matter. For now, both lead researchers want the US to start preparing and gathering as much data as possible.

"We have never seen the planet warming as fast as it is now, and we have to prepare as best we can," said Schaeffer to Live Science, adding, "We need to get organized quickly, and, hopefully, this helps to make the case."

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