The New York Times on Tuesday published an article on the how much the topography of Greenland is changing due to the unexpectedly rapid melting of its glaciers.
Until recently, the consensus of climate scientists was that the impact of melting polar ice sheets would be negligible over the next 100 years. Ice sheets were thought to be extremely slow in reacting to atmospheric warming. The 2001 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, widely considered to be an authoritative scientific statement on the potential impacts of global warming, based its conclusions about sea-level rise on a computer model that predicted a slow onset of melting in Greenland.
As a result of this rapid melting, explorers and cartographers now have lots to do. While it’s true that something like 98% of the world’s oceans remain undiscovered (that is, all the stuff below the surface), the names of places have pretty much been written. To claim name to some new locale, explorers for the last hundred years have had to turn their eyes to the sky. That’s no longer true. With rising sea levels and the melting of ice sheets, there are lots of new islands to be discovered, formed and named. And the northernwestern passage–once the coveted route all of all sea-trading countries and the grave of many explorers–is finally being opened. The irony, of course, is that commercial trade through the northwestern passage will actually serve to reduce transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions.