Beacon Transcript – A new study seems to suggest that Greenland may have once been ice-free as the famous misnomer may have once been greener.
Greenland, just as Iceland, is one of the most known misnomers cases. As the two are usually mixed, a new study shows that Greenland may have once been ice-free.
The country, contrary to its name, is renowned for its ice-covered surface. More than 80 percent of its landmass was noted to be covered by the frozen water formation.
As it is a fifth of the United States’ size, it is also the largest island, excluding Australia which counts as a continent.
A newly released study went to show that Greenland’s name may not be such a far stretch after all.
The research for the study was carried out by a team of Columbia University Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory researchers.
It was led by Joerg Schaefer, an Observatory paleontologist, and published earlier this week, on December 7. It was released in the Nature journal under the following name. “Greenland was nearly ice-free for extended periods during the Pleistocene.”
Previous and generally accepted theories withheld Greenland icy nature. The common belief is that over the past few million years, the island has been covered by ice.
However, the new study seeks to demonstrate that some 1.4 to 1.1 million years ago, the insular surface was ice-free. This could have happened sometimes during the Pleistocene epoch.
The Pleistocene epoch was estimated to have spanned from a period of 2.59 million to 11,700 years ago. During this time period, there may have also been 280,000 years when Greenland was less icy.
Researchers base their new study on a bedrock core which was drilled out back in 1993. Extensive research has already been conducted in relation to the extracted ice.
However, the technology required in order to study the rocky core only became available last year. The Greenland ice sheet drilling went more than 10,000 feet deep. As the extracted bedrock core was almost 2 miles deep, it is also the only sample of its kind.
Researchers have now taken to analyze the 5 feet of drilled rock. This led to a somewhat surprising discovery.
Whilst studying the rock, Schaefer and his team detected radioactive material traces. These traces were aluminium-26 and beryllium-10 isotopes.
This radioactive material is determined by minuscule outer space particles. As they are always hitting the Earth’s surface, they can be created only on bare rock.
As such, the only explanation for this traces is the fact that Greenland must have once been free of its current cover.
As the decay rate of the respective radioactive material has come to be known, the researchers could determine their age.
Based on the decay rates, the researchers estimated Greenland’s free of ice most probable periods.
The fact that Greenland may have once been free of ice may be a scientific game changer. As such, the island may be revealing new data about our planet’s history.
It may also have important future applications. If scientists prove that Greenland’s ice may have once melted, that could also mean that it may do so again.
According to the study lead, Schaefer, Greenland’s icy sheet may not be as stable as it seems. The island’s ice sheet stability has already been sparking debates and controversies.
Greenland is believed to host an approximate 684,000 cubic miles quantity of ice. If all this ice were to melt, it would result in a sea level rise of almost 24 feet.
The Pleistocene melting phenomenon was natural, so it is unclear how the human-related global warming will affect the ice.
Greenland is already losing some of its ice as it too is affected by the global phenomenon. As such, Schaefer points out the need for further studies.
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