Andrew Yang’s surprised many with his assertion that people move away from the coast at the last Democratic debate. But that assertion is the completely rational and correct choice for NASA scientists in Greenland.
“There is enough ice in Greenland to raise the sea levels by 7.5 meters, that’s about 25 feet, an enormous volume of ice, and that would be devastating to coastlines all around the planet,” said Josh Willis, a NASA oceanographer, to CNN. “We should be retreating already from the coastline if we are looking at many meters [lost] in the next century or two.”
Willis and his research team at NASA’s Ocean Melting Greenland have seen some dangerous patterns as they move around the island’s coastline since heat waves bore down on the U.S. and Europe at the end of July.
The surface temperature is warmer, and it is turning Greenland into a slush-filled mess, but the temperature deep under the water is also rising. The warming water is eating away at the foundation of the glaciers. This means Greenland’s massive ice sheet is getting weaker at the top and the bottom, which spells trouble for the entire world.
“Greenland has impacts all around the planet. A billion tons of ice lost here raises sea levels in Australia, in Southeast Asia, in the United States, in Europe,” said Willis to CNN. “We are all connected by the same ocean.”
The ice in Greenland started the summer in a weak state. There was little snowfall this past winter to reinforce the ice or to absorb the sunlight in the peak of summer, when the sun never fully goes down. Fresh snow stays bright and reflective and this bounces away solar radiation. Older snow is less reflective and absorbs the sun’s heat.
As sea ice decreases, less carbon will be removed from the atmosphere. Plus, the melting ice will raise sea levels.