Scientists say ice core samples from Greenland could help predict the impact of global warming, as they reach the country’s bedrock after five years of drilling. A 14-nation consortium announced this week that they are finally able to study ice from the Eemian period (115,000 – 130,000 years ago) to view samples from the last time the earth’s temperature was warmer than today.
Dorthe Dahl-Jensen is an ice expert at the University of Copenhagen and head of the project. In an email to news agency AFP, she wrote, “Our findings will increase our knowledge on the climate system and increase our ability to predict the speed and final height of sea level rise.”
“If the Eemian was unstable, then the models of future change due to increased greenhouse effect are wrong as they cannot handle sudden changes,” she added.
The climate in Greenland was between 3°C and 5°C higher than today during the Eemian period. But according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), world temperatures could rise by another 6°C compared to pre-industrial times, making much of the planet uninhabitable.
Greenland’s bedrock was reached last week after drilling for more than 2,500 metres. Scientists can now set about discovering exactly how reduced the country’s ice sheet was 120,000 years ago and if sea levels rose as a consequence.
Current theories on the state of Arctic ice are largely contradictory, with some experts predicting that the continent-sized block will remain fairly stable, while others say the melting could raise global sea levels by a metre. If the pessimists are correct, the thaw would be enough to flood major coastal cities and make hundreds of millions of people homeless.
“When our analyses are complete, we will be able to determine to what extent the Greenland ice sheet contributed to the global sea level rise of five metres during the Eemian,” Dahl-Jensen said, adding that initial results would be published before the end of the year.