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The Stability of the Greenland Ice Sheet


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Education & Outreach
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Education & Outreach

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Science / project summary

The stability of the Greenland Ice Sheet has important implications for possible future sea level rise. Recent observational data suggest an acceleration of mass loss, and consequent global sea level rise, from Greenland. There is, though, no consensus on what future trends may be. Thus, there is urgency in defining priorities for addressing the Greenland Ice Sheet stability problem. Funds are provided for a workshop on the stability of the Greenland Ice Sheet. A community of experts will be assembled to assess the current state of knowledge of Greenland Ice Sheet history and sensitivity to climate forcing. The group also will suggest key research priorities that would promote traction on the problem of Greenland Ice Sheet stability. Improved understanding of Greenland Ice Sheet history, the associated processes, and its possible future will significantly impact our ability to predict and mitigate sea level rise. The workshop will guarantee gender and age diversity, thus ensuring the introduction of new members to the national and international community represented at the workshop. Understanding ice sheet stability is important for understanding and projecting sea level rise. However, we do not currently have data or models that allow for a definitive consensus view of ice sheet variability during the past, much less the future. Recent measurements of cosmogenic isotopes demand the absence of ice at the GISP2 summit drill site for significant portions of the Pleistocene. On the other hand, new and published data from other ice cores in central Greenland and from offshore sediment records have been interpreted to suggest persistence of the ice sheet through the Plio-Pleistocene. While numerical ice sheet simulations reveal a smaller, but relatively intact Greenland Ice Sheet during the Last Interglaciation, new discoveries from the glacial dynamics community reveal processes that could lead to the collapse of continental ice in Greenland. Thus, the workshop will focus on assessing and reconciling the state of knowledge and understanding of four important sub-disciplines - ice coring, stratigraphic records, ice sheet modeling, and ice sheet processes.