Greenland is suffering a real catastrophe due to climate change

The country is losing ice and becoming greener

by Lorenzo Ciotti
Greenland is suffering a real catastrophe due to climate change
© Mario Tama / Staff Getty Images

Greenland is suffering a real catastrophe due to climate change. Over the last 30 years, the island's ice cover has decreased by approximately 28,700 square kilometers, while, with shrubification, vegetation and wetlands have doubled and quadrupled respectively.

Such significant ice loss will have devastating long-term effects, both domestically and globally. Global warming is leading to the progressive and (it seems) inevitable melting of all the planet's glaciers. We are losing important biodiversity and fundamental habitats, while, at the same time, sea levels rise and desertification increases.

Ice loss has been concentrated around the edges of current glaciers, but also in north and southwestern Greenland. High levels of ice loss were also recorded in localized areas in the west, central-northwest and south-east. Over the three decades, the amount of land on which vegetation grows increased by 33,774 square miles (87,475 square km), more than doubling over the study period.

Where once there was ice and snow, there are now barren rocks, wetlands and areas of shrubs. The loss of ice and the increase in vegetation are not just local phenomena, but have global implications, such as rising sea levels and the release of ancient viruses trapped in permafrost.

Greenland© Mario Tama / Staff Getty Images

Greenland real catastrophe due to climate change

With the reduction of ice and snow, which reflected solar energy into space, the ground absorbs more heat, inexorably transforming the surrounding habitat.

A team of researchers from the University of Leeds said warmer air temperatures are causing the ice to retreat. Permafrost is being destroyed by warming and in some areas could impact infrastructure and buildings.

Since the 1970s, Greenland has warmed at twice the global average. Here, average annual air temperatures between 2007 and 2012 were 3 degrees Celsius warmer than the average for the period 1979-2000.

As the ice retreats, it exposes the basement which absorbs more solar energy, raising the temperature of the Earth's surface. The water released by melting ice displaces sediment and silt, which ends up forming wetlands and swamps. Snow and ice reflect the solar energy that hits the Earth's surface well and this helps keep the Earth colder.