- Education and Science
Why is Greenland Covered in Ice?
Why is There an Ice Sheet on Greenland?
Greenland is the largest island on earth, situated east of Canada, between the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. About 80% of the island is covered by the massive Greenland Ice Sheet with an average thickness of about 1,667 meters. If this ice sheet would melt completely off, the sea level will rise with about 7 meters (23 feet).
Drill samples have shown that the Greenland ice sheet is approximately 110,000 years old. Other estimates claim that the ice sheet is 400,000 years old. How did this ice sheet become so thick, while the surrounding countries with mountain ranges, like Alaska, Canada and Russia, have no ice sheet? Even Iceland isn't fully covered in ice. Moreover is the exact age of the ice sheet unclear. What do we really know?
This article will explore this issue partially which will be published in a series of articles.
Whiteland or Greenland?
Where the name Greenland comes from, while it's completely white, is unsure. But it is said to have come from early Norwegian settlers.
According to the Icelandic sagas, Erik the Red named it Greenland in an attempt to lure more settlers in search of land and the promise of a better life. It was maybe also a kind of incantation to make the cold island more liveable.
Sages and legends often contain parts of some truth. The current scientific view is that Greenland was actually green some 450,000 years ago. That's quite some time for a legend to bridge, isn’t it?
What happened to Greenland that it's now covered with an insane thick icecap?
Models Say There Can't be Ice
Greenland's ice sheet has puzzled scientists for many decades, which have led to complete ridiculous, even unscientific theories. Geoscientists who are in the search for a logical and consistent explanation are limited by their own set of beliefs and institutions. This limitation leads sometimes to the strangest conclusions.
There have been many reports in the media about the effects of global warming on the Greenland ice sheet, but there is still great uncertainty as to why there is an ice sheet on Greenland at all.
There are mathematical models that cover Greenland with an ice sheet, but they also cover the other continents in ice as well. There's no model possible that covers only Greenland.
What changed in Earth’s history to make this happen?
Latest Official Version
The reason for that [the ice sheet] is the interaction of three tectonic processes. For one thing, Greenland had to be lifted up, such that the mountain peaks reached into sufficiently cold altitudes of the atmosphere. Secondly, Greenland needed to move sufficiently far northward, which led to reduced solar irradiation in winter. Thirdly, a shift of the Earth axis caused Greenland to move even further northward.
The Fact is: There Are no Conclusive Models Found Yet
There are in fact several competing theories why Greenland is covered in ice, ranging from:
- changes in ocean circulation,
- the increasing height of the Rocky Mountains,
- changes in the Earth’s orbit,
- natural changes in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.
The University of Bristol, funded by the British Antarctic Survey, claims that none of the posited theories can account for the thick ice sheet of Greenland. Even the Milankovitch cycles are nowhere near strong enough to explain the ice coverage of Greenland.
While the results of the computations suggest that climatic shifts associated with changes in ocean circulation and tectonic uplift did affect the amount of ice cover, and that the ice waxed and waned with changes in the Earth’s orbit, none of these changes were large enough to contribute significantly to the long-term growth of the Greenland ice sheet.
In other words - none of the current theories appear to be valid.
Try to be honest to yourself. Everyone who has a good intuition sees immediately that it's strange that on the Northern hemisphere only Greenland is covered with an ice sheet. Not just a bit of ice. A massive ice layer, while there's nothing on Alaska, Canada and Russia.
Are Temperature Fluctuations Correctly Interpreted?
Altitude, the Higher the Colder
Almost everyone knows that the higher you climb on a mountain, the colder it becomes. The air gets colder because the air gets less dense, and can therefore contain less energy. Less energy means less warmth, so it gets colder.
While we climb higher on the mountain we also get somewhat closer to the sun, but this effect is so small that it remains unnoticeable and even unmeasurable.
The sunlight that warms the earth's surface, also warms the air just above that surface. And most of us know that warm air goes upward, similar as the effect that we see in a hot air balloon. This warmth wants to go as high as possible, but is reduced by the effect of the less denser air, which is ultimately an effect of gravity.
High mountains on Greenland are thought to be the main reason that the ice sheet has developed, while it is easy to understand that this is an impossibility. Fat ice sheets will never develop high upon mountain ranges, because the thin, cold air contains too less water to develop even an ice sheet of hundred meters in one million years.
That scientists aren't ashamed of themselves for producing bullshit theories on public money is still a mystery to me. Is it because we still allow them to?
No Ice Sheets on Other Mountain Ranges
It isn't a logical starting point in any case. The ice sheet around the Greenland Summit, that's about in the middle of the sheet, is about 3,000 meters thick. The altitude is also about 3,000 meters. The mountains must have been pushed down how much? At which point are they trading places, or was it a slow sliding scale? Why aren't even mathematical models to explain how it could work? I will tell you why: it is impossible, and they know.
If that would be the main driver, why are there no fat ice sheets on the Brooks Mountain Range, the Innuitian Mountains, the Mackenzie Mountains, the Ural Mountains, the Central Siberian Plateau, and the Verkhoyansk range? Even the mountains on Svalbard aren't covered in thick ice sheets.
Scientists will probably think of very difficult explanations for this, but they then tend to forget about Occam's Razor. The simplest explanation with the least assumptions is the best theory.
The fact is that there is currently still no official theory available to explain the ice sheet on Greenland, without covering the above mentioned mountain ranges with an ice sheet as well.
Why no Ice Sheets on Alaska, Canada or Russia?
The latest official theory why Greenland is covered in ice, includes the assumption that Greenland was covered with high mountains. These high mountains were formed by tectonic forces pointed towards the location of Greenland. The relative thin crust was easier foldable which made the formation of mountains easier.
The mountain peaks would start to accumulate an ice sheet after Greenland shifted 18° further up North to its current location, according to this new theory. It cannot be stated clear enough that this is completely irrational science.
Why would only Greenland shift Northward? And the rest stays in place? Seriously?
Why this accumulation of ice didn't happen in similar regions in Alaska, Canada or Russia, where the much colder land climate even more encourages the build-up of an ice sheet, remains completely out of the scope of this theory.
This theory seems to be rather adhoc because it doesn't cover the complete subject of ice sheet formation around the Arctic.
© 2015 by Buildreps
First publication: 09 December 2015