Earth’s Heat Loss Melts Ice Sheets On Greenland

Lately, we have heard a lot about global warming affecting ice sheets on Antarctica, jeopardizing marine life in coral reefs around the world, and much more. However, the cause of higher temperatures on Earth are not only from human activities, but also Earth’s internal heat has been causing ice sheets on Greenland to melt and slide into the sea.

Ice Sheets On Greenland
Image source: YouTube Video Screenshot

The internal heat from the Earth’s core is reaching the water located below the fjords in Greenland. Fjords have been formed thanks to the abrasion of the bedrock as the glacier moves. Scientists from the Arctic Research Centre (ARC) in Aarhus University, Denmark, and the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources conducted a study for more than ten years on a fjord dubbed Young Sound, which houses many hot springs. The researchers determined that the heat under the fjords causes the ice sheets on Greenland to melt and slide into the sea.

“Northeast Greenland has several hot springs where the water becomes up to 60 degrees [Celsius] warm and, like Iceland, the area has abundant underground geothermal activity,” Soren Rysgaard of ARC, said in a statement Monday.

It’s quite difficult to find out how much heat is coming from the Earth’s core, given that the scientists have to localize it under the glaciers. They discovered where to study, as the region has several glaciers that are connected to the same ice sheet. They focused on an area which is an isolated basin located in Young Sound. The basin’s depth is between 200 and 340 meters. According to the data scientists collected, the fjord absorbed heat of about 100 megawatt per square meter. According to the statement this measurement “corresponds to a 2-megawatt wind turbine sending electricity to a large heater at the bottom of the fjord all year round.”

Ice sheets on Greenland float into the sea

The heat coming from the earth to the fjords warms up the bottom of the glacier, which results in the ice sheets on Greenland melting, after which they more easily slide into the sea.

“It is a combination of higher temperatures in the air and the sea, precipitation from above, local dynamics of the ice sheet and heat loss from the Earth’s interior that determines the mass loss from the Greenland ice sheet,” Rysgaard explained. “There is no doubt that the heat from the Earth’s interior affects the movement of the ice, and we expect that a similar heat seepage takes place below a major part of the ice cap in the north-eastern corner of Greenland,”

According to the statement, the study has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.