Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Greenland Ice Sheet is Melting

Here is another of those articles from the BBC. Yes, all ice sheets melt, otherwise glaciers would not form at all! But seriously, the research must be put into context. We are still coming out of the last Ice Age even though this warming trend has now been going on for 25,000 years. Sea level has been rising during this time. Sea level in some places has been dropping, however, due to tectonic adjustments.

For example, the Baltic Sea is currently rising in response to an isostatic re-adjustment now that the Scandinavian Ice Sheet is basically melted. Elsewhere in the world there are sea level changes that have nothing to do with ice melting - typically we can see plate tectonics at work along subduction zones, for example.

The article notes that if all the Greenland ice sheet melts then sea level will rise 7 meters. This would indeed have dire effects on many coastal cities. But, and here is the rub, sea level change is happening regardless of man's "interference". The problem is, we started building great cities on the sea shore long before geology was a science, long before scientists worked out that we live on a very dynamic planet. And now it is more convenient to blame something else for our poor positioning of so much "civilization" - isn't that what global warming is all about?

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