Why are new rivers carving through Greenland, and can we stop them?

It's no big secret that our planet's heating up.

You can tell just by looking at the average temperatures over the last hundred years.

There's also the fact that, oh yeah, Greenland is literally melting.


Yup, that's a puddle of melted ice. Not actually a river leading to a lake. WHOOPS. GIF via New York Times.

That's why Dr. Laurence Smith and his team are getting their feet wet and hands dirty on Greenland's glaciers.

Perhaps more accurately, they are risking life and limb as they contend with frostbite and sinkholes in the cracking ice in an attempt to gather the most up-to-date and accurate on-the-ground evidence of climate change ever.

“We scientists love to sit at our computers and use climate models to make those predictions. But to really know what's happening, that kind of understanding can only come about through empirical measurements in the field," Dr. Smith, the head of the geography department at UCLA, told the New York Times (in a super-cool multimedia story that you should totally check out).

GIF via New York Times.

As the icy landmass crumbles beneath their feet, they're out there recording information on the velocity, volume, temperature, and depth of the thousands and thousands of rushing rivers of melted water that have carved their way through Greenland due to rising global temperatures.

We're talkin' 430,000 gallons of water per minute flowing off the ice and into sinkholes called moulins that lead out into the ocean.

Did I mention that if the entire Greenland ice sheet melts, they're currently predicting that it could cause the sea to rise by a whopping 20 feet? 'Cause that's fun.

GIF via New York Times.

Until now, most climate scientists have relied on computer models to predict the changing shape of the world.

The physical evidence of climate change right outside is pretty hard to deny. But scientists have spent the last few decades trying to come up with computer calculations to predict exactly what will happen if our rate of carbon consumption continues.

430,000 gallons of water per minute is flowing off the ice and into the ocean.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of factors involved in climate conditions. As a result, these theoretical models have not perfectly predicted the future — a fact which those who reject mainstream climate science love to use as justification for their willful ignorance.

Case in point: Just this past year, when the overall sea level rose a whole one-quarter of a millimeter less than predicted.

To recap: Sea levels are in fact still rising, and the world is in fact heating up overall. But climate change isn't real because something something margin of error and science uh-huh OK sure.

GIF from "Easy A."

While these new calculations won't stop what's happening, they'll at least help us prepare for what we're about to face.

For example, if we can predict with greater accuracy (like, less than a quarter-of-a-millimeter off) just how much the water levels are going to rise in the years to come, we can enact a plan to build seawalls or other structures to stop flooding and save our coastal cities ( like that same quaint New England one that I call home ahhhhhhhhh).

GIF via New York Times.

But preventive treatment to stop the effects of climate change also means taking action to end the damage that we're doing right now. It's no use wasting taxpayer dollars on research that we ourselves are rendering useless to plan for a future that we won't live to see.

In the meantime, you can check out this stunning drone video of Greenland's melting glaciers — just as long as you promise to remind yourself that the beautiful sparkling landscape is neither natural nor good.

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