A massive iceberg broke off Greenland this week. It’s the largest break in Greenland in 50 years, setting off alarm bells among climate watchers. Anchor Jeb Sharp speaks with Dr. Robert Bindschadler, one of NASA’s leading climate scientists, about the break.
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JEB SHARP: The death toll has topped 1,100 today from flooding and landslides in China. The grim milestone comes amid reports of continuing floods in Pakistan, and an unrelenting heat wave in Russia. Scientists say none of this extreme weather can be directly linked to global warming. But they say it all does fit into the models of what a warmer future might look like. Meanwhile there’s another bit of news raising climate-related alarms. The break-off this week of a massive iceberg from Greenland. Robert Bindschadler is a glaciologist with NASA. He says the location of the ice collapse makes it especially troubling.
ROBERT BINDSCHADLER: This is happening right at the northern tip of Greenland, so what it tells us is that these dramatic events have extended from the southern part of Greenland where we’ve seen them before all the way to the northern limits. So all of the Greenland ice sheet is now involved in this dynamic.
SHARP: One of the concerns often about these kinds of events is rising sea levels. Is there any reason to think this one iceberg could contribute significantly to rising sea levels?
BINDSCHADLER: It likely will in a fairly small way and the way it will is that before it calved it was part of an ice shelf. A floating ice tongue connected to the ice sheet and because it’s been removed, there’s less resistance to the flow of the ice sheet into the ocean, so as a glaciologist I would expect the glacier to speed up a little bit and that will contribute a modest increase to sea level rise.
SHARP: And in terms of other impacts I think one of the things that really scares people is the idea that this huge chunk of ice could hit ships or oil rigs.
BINDSCHADLER: It doesn’t move too fast, but you don’t want to get in its way. It’s likely to get caught up in the circulation in the Arctic Ocean and move around for many years.
SHARP: How do you think of the future of the arctic when you think about it? If there’s more ice melts and that means more human activity up there in terms of exploration, numbers of boats. Do you have a kind of nightmarish picture of too much stuff all going different directions and one bumping into the next?
BINDSCHADLER: Yes, I would say it’s disturbing to think about what the near-term future is of the arctic because it’s really chaotic up there. So everybody in the world should kind of keep an eye out on how disruptive climate change is to the northern societies because that’s a harbinger of things to come for everybody on the planet.
SHARP: Dr. Robert Bindschadler is a senior fellow at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
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